Gaborone — Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises was on Wednesday left speechless when a permanent secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism and acting Botswana Tourism Organisation gave contrasting statements on one issue.
Appearing before the committee chaired by MP Samson Guma earlier on, permanent secretary, Mr Jimmy Opelo said the contract that his ministry signed with a UK-based company to collect tourism levy on its behalf was cancelled towards the end of last year.
He noted that upon realising that certain procedures were floated as advised by the committee, they cancelled the contract and withdrew the Tourism Levy Bill, which was put before Parliament for consideration.
Mr Opelo, who was critically grilled by the worried committee, admitted that it was not procedural for Minister Tshekedi Khama to have hand-picked the company and authorised that it should collect the levy on behalf of BTO despite numerous advices from some stakeholders.
He acknowledged that the minister had usurped the mandate of the BTO board.
However, Mr Guma said it was strange that the very same minister then came up with a Bill to force Parliament to rubber stamp his decision, which was not properly formulated, but was explicitly unprocedural and tantamount to abuse of office and power.
On a parting shot, he urged Mr Opelo to make sure that he put things in order at his ministry as procedure seem to be floated willy-nilly.
However, the committee was left agape when acting BTO chief executive officer, Mr Zibanani Hubona said to the best of his knowledge, recollection of the contract between BTO and the UK-based company, which had been engaged to collect tourism levy was still in force.
He noted that it was only the board which could recommend that the contract be terminated and that he was not aware that such a decision had ever been taken.
The company was supposed to collect $30 from tourists at some designated points of entry and retain $18 as its share, while government was to take the remaining $12.
According to Mr Opelo, the Tourism Levy Bill was intended to maintain tourism attraction facilities and it would return to Parliament once all stakeholders had been consulted.
Source : BOPA