Govt. probes Tanzanian company housed at SADC headquarters

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Botswana government officials this week visited the SADC headquarters to  investigate why a Tanzanian travel company- World Link Travel and Tours - which won a multimillion Pula tender is operating without the necessary documentation and, or licences.

The company is housed in the SADC Secretariat building in Gaborone’s Central Business District. BG News has it in good authority that the preliminary findings of the investigation conducted by the Department of Tourism inspectors this week show that the company and SADC have trampled the country laws with impunity as despite being in business for more than six months and having made huge profits, they are still to register with the relevant authorities. 

What has come out of the Wednesday visit by government officers is a claim that the company has been subcontracted by SADC to do ticketing and bookings for accommodation and activities. The findings state that the leadership of World Link Travel and Tours stay in Tanzania and the company is preparing to register in Botswana. The findings further state that the director of the company is in Tanzania.

BG News has it in good authority that the Tourism Inspectors will continue with the investigation until they have all the answers as what is coming out clearly is that the awarding of the tender seems to have clearly flouted the laws of the republic. 

Botswana Guardian last week published a story  that the company which is not registered in the country with the Companies and Intellectual Property Authority (CIPA), has not only been awarded the travel contract for  provision of travel and event management services to the SADC Secretariat, but is also controversially housed in the ground floor of the Secretariat.

The latest that BG News has learnt is that the company - World Link Travel and Tours’ existence and operation further violates the laws of the country as it does not have the necessary documentation and, or licences issued by the Department of Tourism under the Ministry of  Environment Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism (ME NRCT) .

The statutory requirement is that all travel agencies and operators registered with  AITA must apply and be furnished with a tourism Licence D issued by the Department of Tourism before operating. Other operators who provide facilities such as accommodation must have AITA licence L from Department of Tourism.

Commentators say non-compliance of the World Link Travel and Tours could open an avenue for the company to avoid paying tax as they are a private company providing service to SADC but are not exempted from paying Value Added Tax (VAT). The statutory requirement is that any person that undertakes business needs not necessarily be incorporated in the country, but has to register at CIPA, and Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) as any money earned in Botswana through business is liable to be taxed.

MERCT Permanent Secretary Jimmy Opelo confirmed that his ministry is investigating World Link Travel and Tours operations in Botswana purely to, “See how come they got involved in that kind of business without the proper permits and licences. I have talked to my team and they are following it up as we speak.”

Explaining the protocol and procedure concerning whether Diplomatic Missions are required to pay Value Added Tax, Permanent  Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and  International Cooperation (MoFIC), Gaeimelwe Goitsemang said diplomatic missions do not pay tax, but their service providers  are required to pay VAT. 

When an Embassy and or multilateral institution residing in Botswana purchases whatever item from a private company registered in Botswana, the company in question will charge such Mission VAT. Then such Mission or Diplomat will file a claim with the MoFIC. The ministry will assess all the evidence brought before them and once satisfied that it meets all the requirement, the Ministry will submit such a claim to BURS to reimburse such a Mission. 

“But I must point out that if the Embassy is dealing with a foreign company that is not registered in the country, then they cannot lodge a claim with the government,” said Goitsemang. BG News has it in good authority that the awarding of the multimillion tender which runs until January 2019 may lead to many local travel agencies closing down. 

It was clear from the onset that the tender identified as SADC/travel and events/01/2016 was not originally meant for the local market, but, rather intended to eliminate most if not all companies providing travel service as they could not meet the set criteria, complained one aviation insider.

All efforts to get a comment from the SADC Acting Head of Procurement, Gift Mike Gwaza were not successful at the time of writing. 

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