Parliament to grill Khama over Tourism Development Fund reckless spending
Sparks are expected to fly in parliament when The Minister of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama gets grilled on charges of abusing the Tourism Development Fund (TDF)in April.
Khama would be expected not only to answer questions from Public Accounts office (PAC) submissions but also to provide clarifications concerning his alleged unethical, reckless and suspicious spending of over P80 million from (TDF) in the past financial year, The Voice has learnt.
Official documents leaked to this publication have indicated that the minister intentionally flouted corporate governance best practices when he diverted funds from TDF to finance his pet projects.
The minister who came under scrutiny last year for allegedly micro managing Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) under which TDF falls has been accused of bleeding TDF coffers, which initially had P88m on ad -hoc projects that were neither planned nor budgeted for.
The leaked documents, some of which had at one point gone missing from the Public Accounts office where they were submitted last year titled, “all correspondence must be addressed to the minister’s office” have indicated that Khama unilaterally directed and approved budget disbursement tallying up to over 80 million pula, subsequently frustrating and forcing the then Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO), the country’s tourism marketing entity to resign.
Contrary to the TDF funds disbursal guidelines, which stipulate that the “funding and identification of projects shall amongst other things, have an annual budget proposal that shall be prepared clearly identifying projects for funding, which should be submitted to the TDF board Committee a year in advance for approval,’ Khama “directed” the then CEO to source out funds from TDF for unbudgeted for projects such as the controversial P17 million deal to run the BTO Dubai office for three years.
One of the leaked documents has stated that Khama was keen on closing the Dubai office deal with Al Hammadi, a Dubai royal, that he (Khama) had ties with.
Another document titled “Gaborone International Airshow dated August, 2016 has detailed how the Minister siphoned over P 7 million pula from the fund to cover for an airshow that did not fall under the category of the fund
In the letter, Khama directed the CEO to source out P 7, 996, 500 million pula from the TDF for the first Gaborone International Airshow, an event that duplicated and was in the same geographical area as the already existing Matsieng International Airshow.
The letter reads in part: “It has been proposed that the Airshow will culminate in a gala dinner which will mark the formal launch of the Tlhokomela Endangered Wildlife Trust, which is housed under the BTO with the attendance of His Excellency the President of Botswana and Trust Patron addressing a potential fundraising base of 150 key corporate leaders.”
“In view of the fact that the said amount has not been provided for in the BTO budget, you are directed to accordingly source the same from the Tourism development Fund (TDF).”
This directive was given despite the fact that although the fund’s objectives include promotion of tourism development, its guidelines forbid the funding of projects that duplicate ongoing projects in the same geographic area.
He, according to a letter to the BTO Boss dated August 4, 2016, further gave a directive to fund, Race for Rhinos, with a P 5 065 00 from the TDF.
The letters reveal that other “ad-hoc” projects controversially funded from TDF includes the World strongest man event at USD 500 000 equivalent to about P5million and the payment of the Botswana 50 years anniversary memento book for the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism at P 1 347, 500.00.”
Meanwhile a source within the Ministry has argued that Khama did not appoint a board to oversee the fund to create an opportunity for himself to be the sole signatory of the TDF fund.
“He is not supposed to be approving budgets of that fund in his capacity as the Minister. He deliberately did not appoint the board who are supposed to be the signatory of the fund because he knew it would not approve the massive spending let alone the project s which do not satisfy the TDF set guidelines,” said the highly placed source.
At the time of going to press BTO had not provided a response to set of questions they had demanded two weeks before.
Khama had declined to comment.