Mogae' s Botswana Defence Force Gulfstream IV jet: MPs interve
* PPADB boss refused to divulge details of the sale
* MPs want Speaker to issue order to force revelation
* Tussle over national security argument.
The Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies led by Gaborone West North Member of Parliament (MP), Robert Masitara has called on the Speaker, Margaret Nasha, to summon the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) executive chairperson Bridget Poppy John to answer questions relating to the sale of the presidential jet.
The PPADB boss refused to answer questions on the matter when quizzed by the legislative committee during its investigations on the financial conduct of parastatals and government bodies. In a scathing attack on the conduct of the PPADB, the committee's report condemns the procurement body's refusal to give them information relating to how the board conducted the sale of the retired presidential jet.
The PPADB is said to have reacted with 'arrogance' when quizzed on how they disposed of the Gulfstream IV presidential jet that was used by President Festus Mogae and later Vice President Mompati Merafhe before being sold off under mysterious circumstances.
According to the report, the PPADB CEO revealed that the disposal of the Gulfstream IV business size jet fell under the Special Procurement and Asset Disposal Procurement Committee established under the PPADB Act which holds that all procurement and disposal relating to disciplined services should remain secret. The team interrogated the validity of the argument, questioning how the disposal of a presidential jet could be termed a matter of the disciplined forces. Furthermore the MPs also argue that the secrecy provision was conditional, dependent on the period and specific terms.
"The Executive Chairperson and the Board, have failed to disclose when the Special Procurement Committee made a deliberate decision to conduct the disposal of the property under strict confidentiality and stating what "fixed duration" the statutory veil of secrecy will be maintained as is contemplated in the provisions of the act".
Furthermore the PPADB is said to have quoted the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act which gives civil servants permission to refuse to divulge information relating to naval, military or air force, unless granted such permission by the President.
The committee argues that the PPADB does not indicate which aspect of the discussion is covered by this section of the law, further arguing that the PPADB boss is not an employee of the government of Botswana as covered by the Public Service Act, but rather an employee of a statutory body with a different legal personality.
"The committee is acutely conscious of its duty, to uphold and protect legislative instruments in regard to the protection of matters of national security, more so as members of the legislature which has promulgated them, especially in regard to the disposal of the kind of property put in issue by the board's disclaimer. Similarly, the committee is conscious of its function of scrutiny to ensure due candour and disclosure to the nation by government entities and bodies such as the PPADB Board," states the report.
The MPs then conclude by urging the Speaker to make an order demanding an explanation from the PPADB boss as to why she would not give evidence, or alternatively, give the demanded evidence. The new demand from Parliament once again puts into sharp relief the struggle between the executive and the parliament. The legislative assembly has often complained that it is constrained by both the law and the powers of the executive to play an oversight role over the executive and other organs of the state.
A few years ago, MPs released a report in which they alleged financial irregularities at the Office of the President after funds were withdrawn from the National Disaster Fund and given to the Directorate of Intelligence Services.
The Auditor General says that as of April 2007, the fund had P31 million but in March 2010 this had been depleted to P9 million. The Public Accounts Committee last year ordered that an enquiry be made into the matter.
However nothing came of it. The presidential jet came into the spotlight last year when Parliament was told by the Minister of Justice, Defence and Security that in February the plane was still at the hangar waiting to be sold when the aviation market improves. The media later revealed that the plane had been sold for P15m to an American company.
The committee consists of Dumelang Saleshando of Gaborone Central, Rayner Makosha of Nata/Gweta, South East North MP, Olebile Gaborone, Odirile Motlhale of South East South, Molepolole South MP, Daniel Kwelagobe, MP for Ngwaketse West, Mephato Reatile and Kgalagadi North MP, Phillip Khwae.
Source: TSHIRELETSO MOTLOGELWA - Staff writer, 20 April 2012 (mmegi.bw)
Photo: Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Gulfstream IV VIP Jet (Photo by BDF)