Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hon.Min.f.Presidential Affairs and Public Administration answer to Parliament with regard to the delayed delivery of the new Presidential Jet

source: Republic of Botswana (10/8/09): TAUTONA TIMES no 20 of 2009
The Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
"Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline"

C2) 6/8/09: Hon. Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration answer to Parliament with regard to the delayed delivery of the new Presidential Jet, along with additional relevant statements.

Below please find [C2a] the yesterday's Response in Parliament by the Hon. Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration to a Question raised by the Hon. MP for Kgatleng East with regard to the delayed delivery of the new Presidential Jet. In her response, the Minister, among other things, reaffirmed the fact that Government has not incurred any additional costs as a result of the delay.

It may be further noted that the substance of the Minister's response was contained in a previous, July 8, 2009 statement issued by this Office in response to a misleading news report that was originally published by the Botswana Gazette newspaper of the same date. Said statement was unfortunately largely ignored by local media following its release, and is therefore reproduced below [C2b].

Among other things, our earlier statement makes the additional point (which was not part of yesterday's response) that in accordance with its contractual obligations the company responsible for delivery of the new jet, Bombardier, is obligated to pay penalty fees for each day it fails to meet its delivery deadline.

Also reproduced for your additional information below [C2c] is a July 10, 2009 Right of Reply to the Editor of the Botswana Gazette by the Deputy Senior Private Secretary and Press Liaison to H.E. the President, Mr. Sipho Madisa, in which he responded directly to the offending article, including its mischaracterization of his own comments. In this respect, this Office notes with dismay that up until now the Botswana Gazette has failed to publish said reply, despite assurances to this Office that it would do so, seemingly calling into question the publication's proclaimed commitment to abide by its Code of Ethics, as well as the basic norms of journalism.

C2a) Response by the Hon. Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration to Parliamentary Question No: 821 Asked on Wednesday 5th August 2009 by Hon. I.S. Mabiletsa, MP (Kgatleng East)

QUESTION: To ask the Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration:

I. Whether the new Presidential jet has been delivered, if not, when is the expected delivery date;
II. What the President has been using for his external travelling;
III. Whether the Government has incurred any additional cost over and above the normal estimated expenditure; and
IV. Whether he does not consider it prudent to cancel the order as a cost cutting measure, the same way the Government did by cutting the travelling entitlements for Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament and their spouses when travelling on official duty abroad.

ANSWER: Mr. Speaker, the new Presidential Jet has not yet been delivered, and the latest estimated delivery date is September, 2009. In the meantime, the President has been using the existing Presidential Jet, Gulfstream 4 (OK 1) for the few external trips, that he has undertaken, save for the recent trip to Singapore, when he was loaned a Jet by the manufacturer (Bombardier of Canada). Mr. Speaker, The usage of the aircraft was at no cost to Government. I must also add Mr. Speaker, that as at the end of June 2009, Government had not incurred any extra expenditure over the estimated cost.

Mr. Speaker, it would not be prudent to cancel the order at this juncture as delivery is expected in two months time, and Government would incur losses, as the bulk of the purchase price has already been paid. I thank you, Mr. Speaker.

C2b) July 8 2009 Office of the President Press Statement: "OP denies chartering jet for foreign visit".

This Office notes with dismay a report in one of today's newspapers [i.e. "Khama Hires a Jet" in Botswana Gazette of 8/7/09] in which it is falsely claimed that H.E. the President has chartered a jet from a Canadian jet manufacturing company, Bombardier, for use in foreign trips such as his recent Official Visit to Singapore.

We are also concerned that the same report misleadingly insinuates that millions are thus being used to charter aircraft for foreign trips and its publication of the further unsubstantiated claim that some unnamed "officials in government believe Bombardier is raking in a lot of money from Botswana as a result of the delayed delivery of anew Presidential jet."

For the record, this Office can reassure the public that no such charter or payments have been made. In fact, Bombardier provided a jet free of charge for use by His Excellency's delegation to Singapore, as a result of the company's failure to meet its delivery deadline.

We further observe that, far from "raking in a lot of money", the same company, in accordance with its contractual obligations, is actually being made to pay penalty fees for each day it fails to meet the said deadline.

Finally, this Office is of the firm view that an understandable inability of public officials to at all times conform to various newspapers own deadlines does not in any way absolve the press from its professional obligation to at all times ensure that what is published is accurate; much less provide media practitioners with a license to embellish and distort such information as has been availed to them.

C2c) Right of Reply dated 10 July 2009 to the Botswana Gazette by Mr. Sipho Qedindaba Madisa, Deputy Senior Private Secretary & Press Liaison Officer to the President:

The 8 July 2009 edition of your newspaper carried on its second page an article titled "Khama Hires Jet", which included alleged responses by myself to your reporter that were certainly not uttered by me.

I am disappointed, to say the least, at such apparently unethical and unprofessional conduct and am at a loss as to why your reporter would rush to print an unverified article when he knew very well that his action was out of order given that he was still to be furnished with answers to his questionnaire, which had been delayed for reasons advanced to him. This is the sort of thing that leads one to suspect malice of intent.

I know respectable and credible journalists who play by the book and would never go out of their way to so misinform the public for reasons perhaps best known to themselves. They respect their profession and are governed by the media code of ethics. It is disturbing to note therefore that under seeming pressure to run a story your reporter broke ranks with established rules and inappropriately and improperly impressed upon the reading public untruths, by forcing words into my mouth.

For the record, His Excellency the President or the Office of the President did not charter an aircraft for the said state visit. Instead, what I can confirm is that the manufacturers of the expected presidential jet felt obliged to facilitate the state visit because of the inconvenience caused the Botswana Government. This trip had long been planned for and Bombardier was privy to this background. All expenses were therefore incurred by Bombardier and Botswana Government did not spend a single thebe contrary to your allegations.

At no point during our discourse did the cost of charter ever arise. Instead, of particular note was the question on delivery which I answered as captured in the article under contention.

Furthermore, that the delayed delivery of the aircraft was "raking in a lot of money from Botswana as a result" is not true because, for the readers sake, the truth is there is a penalty fee for failure to deliver. That means the total purchase price will be less the penalty fee to the day of delivery. In this respect one can only wonder if truly there are any officials at the enclave who share the expenses sentiment as claimed, or is this a mere figment of imagination.

Members of the press, like others should show basic respect - that is do unto others as you would like them do unto you. Always endeavour to tell the truth, for the truth will set you free. What moves me deeply is the fact that when I enquired with the reporter about his conduct he had nothing to say.

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