Botswana: Parliament, Air Botswana Owes Govt P235m

Gaborone — Air Botswana is said to be owing government P235m.

Answering a question in Parliament from Member of Parliament for Serowe West Mr Tshekedi Khama, Minister of Transport and Communications Mr Thulagano Segokgo said the debt, which is the airline's only debt, emanates from the Public Service Debt Fund (PSDF) loan.

He said the loan was acquired to purchase the Embraer Jet and was payable over a seven-year period.

In addition, he said the airline's 2018 financials had not been completed as the audit was still ongoing. He further indicated that in 2018, Air Botswana appointed new auditors, hence the delay in finalising the audit. Minister Segokgo also said the airline did not have any outstanding IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) findings, and it had been successful with this audit, hence IATA had issued a certificate that would expire on October 20, 2021.

Furthermore, he said the grounding of the jet for six months awaiting licensing mainly cost the airline operationally by way of efficiencies than in monetary terms. He said the jet was planned to start operating on March 1 by flying on the Gaborone-Cape Town route, but it had not yet introduced the route. He said the corporation initially operated two aircraft on a three-aircraft schedule and this resulted in delays and costs to the airline's efficiencies as well as loss of loyalty on the part of its passengers.

On maintenance, Minister Segokgo said the airline used its engineers to carry out the necessary routine and preventative maintenance on the aircraft as scheduled and planned. He said there had not been any additional maintenance costs associated with the aircraft being on the ground. He also added that the airline crew had initially planned to convert two sets of crew for the jet. However, due to the delay in the licensing process and the increased utilisation of the turbo prop, the airline delayed the conversion.

He said the airline was to develop new routes; Lusaka and Harare, but said they were deferred before any sales were made on them. He indicated that the airline engaged an ad-hoc operator to assist the business, should there be a disruption. He said, however, that the provision was not procured for the jet. To date, Mr Segokgo said for all business disruptions, the services had cost Air Botswana P5.7 million.

On the appointment of Air Botswana board, he noted that he was guided by Air Botswana Act. He noted that the Act states that the minister shall appoint not less than five or more than seven other persons, 'who have knowledge and experience to contribute to the successful management of the corporation. Similarly with the general manager of the corporation, Mr Segokgo said the appointment was guided by Section 10 of the Act, and upon terms and conditions as may be determined by the corporation.

In this regard, Mr Segokgo indicated that he appointed six people for the board whose qualifications are human resources, law, commerce, engineering, accountancy and IT. He said the current general manager had fulfilled conditions determined by the corporation prior to her appointment with the post advertised externally, interviews conducted and facilitated by external consultants.

He noted that the general manager was appointed in April 2018 following her acting capacity since 2015.

Mr Khama had asked the minister to brief Parliament on the current Air Botswana board and whether they had aviation commercial and operational experience including the general manager. He also asked the minister to state the qualifications the board members held.

The MP also wanted to know whether Air Botswana had been profitable since April 1, 2018; if not what the current debt was. He also wanted to know if Air Botswana's last financial year results have been audited and made public.

Mr Khama further wanted to know if the minister could advise on the status of all the operational and safety issues that were identified in Air Botswana IOSA earlier this year, findings and how many had now been satisfactory rectified to date. He also asked how much it cost the government for the six months that the E170 jet was grounded and not operational since its arrival.

Source : BOPA

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