Air Botswana owes P235M to GOVT
• Loan was used to purchase Embraer jet • 2018 financials delayed because external auditors are new
Embattled national airline, Air Botswana, owes the Government of Botswana P235million which it used to purchase an Embraer jet, The Business Weekly & Review has established.
This revelation was made by the Minister of Transport and Communications, Thulaganyo Segokgo, this week in Parliament. Segokgo was responding to a series of questions raised by the MP for Serowe West, Tshekedi Khama, who wanted to know the state of affairs at the troubled state-run entity.
“In terms of debt, the airline currently owes only the Government of Botswana an amount of P235million, which is a Public Service Debt Fund (PSDF) loan required to purchase the Embraer Jet and is payable over a seven-year period.”
Asked if the airline’s 2018 financials had been audited and made public, Segokgo he could not talk about the financials because the audit is still ongoing. “The Air Botswana Act requires that following an audit performed by duly appointed external auditors, that its audited financial statements be submitted to the Minister of Transport and Communications,” he added. “During the year 2018, Air Botswana appointed new auditors, hence the delay in finalising (the results) as it’s their first year of audit. The audit is expected to be finalised in the next week.”
Tshekedi also wanted to establish if the current board of Air Botswana, including the General Manager, have aviation commercial and operational experience. Minister Segokgo answered that he is guided by the Air Botswana Act section 4.1(c) when appointing the board. “In this regard, I have appointed six people who have the knowledge and the experience to contribute to the successful management of the corporation,” he said. “Their qualifications include, among others, human resource, law, commerce, engineering, accounting and IT.”
According to the minister, Air Botswana appointed its current GM in April 2018 after the board’s approval. “The current Air Botswana General Manager has fulfilled the conditions determined by the corporation,” said Segokgo. “The role of the General Manager was, prior to her appointment, advertised externally, interviews, were conducted (and) facilitated by external consultants and her name was recommended by the board, who in turn made a recommendation to the minister for appointment.”
Regarding the grounding of the jet for six months after arrival awaiting licensing, the minister conceded that this eventually resulted in “operational costs by way of efficiencies than in monetary terms”. He said this was because the grounding of the jet had an impact on flight schedules. “The corporation initially operated two aircraft on a three-aircraft schedule and this resulted in delays and cost the airline efficiencies and loss of loyalty by its passengers,” he added.
Air Botswana announced late last year that it was set to slash over 200 jobs as part of a restructuring exercise.