Botswana Defence Force (BDF) is expected to spend unconfirmed millions of Pula for maintenance and reconfiguration of its acquired 45 used United Kingdom military ambulances, Botswana Guardian has established.
Twenty (20) of the 45 used fleet has already arrived in country via Namibian seaport. Sources at the BDF headquarters - Sir Seretse Khama Barracks (SSKB) - have revealed to this publication that the fleet which was purchased through an auction sometimes in July this year will cost the BDF millions of Pula to maintain.
The first cost according to sources would be incurred through the fixing of the engines and modifying the back where patients would be accommodated. “Some of the ambulances have four beds at the back compared to our usual two beds ambulances. They are fitted with heaters because of the weather condition in the UK.
“So we would have to modify them to meet the standard requirements and weather conditions for Botswana. We would have to remove the heaters and replace with air-conditioners given the weather conditions in Botswana,” said a source at SSKB.
Botswana Guardian can reveal that the ambulances were displayed at the SSKB Parade ground where they are expected to be inspected by senior officials and be briefed on what would be needed to be attended to.
Although it could not disclose to this publication the amount to be incurred, BDF confirmed that the ambulances are being inspected by specialists to advise accordingly. The cost for the purchase of the ambulance could also not be established with the authorities.
Investigations by this publication also reveal that the military green ambulances would have to be repainted to match the BDF camouflage. The ambulance parked at the clinic still resembles the plain green colour of the UK military ambulance.
“Local ambulances that we are using use oxygen cylinders assembled standing straight up. But these ones from UK the oxygen cylinders are lying down on the floor and this would also have to be modified to suit us. Even the engine that they use, Lister, is very expensive to maintain,” said another senior BDF official who went to the UK.
The official said they had initially advised against buying of the vehicles but they had their hand tight to disregard the order to buy the vehicles and all they did was to follow the order and “enjoy the per-diem we were given”.
Responding to a questionnaire, BDP Acting Director of Protocol and Public Affairs Lieutenant Colonel Fikani Machola became economical with details as he could not specify the amount expected to be spent on the modification and maintenance of the fleet. He stated that government through the BDF has been in discussion with several governments, with a view to evaluate the possibility of replacing some of its obsolete equipment.
According to Machola the replacement of such equipment ranges from brand new military equipment to excess defence articles such as ambulances recently acquired from the United Kingdom Department of Defence (DoD).
“As would be expected, the BDF like any other military outfit wishes to acquire new and modern defence equipment in consonance with the ever changing global security landscape. However due to budgetary constraints, militaries (BDF included) may in the process undertake a cost-benefit analysis and settle for excess defence articles as opposed to acquiring new equipment.
“The ambulances bought from the UK DoD have since arrived in the country and are currently undergoing initial or inception inspection by relevant specialist units as per standard operation procedure,” he stated.
Machola said BDF in all its procurement processes adheres to set procedures as obtained in the PPADB Act. No prescription exists in this Act where the president is part of the procurement process, added Machola. He indicated that it is unfortunate that some people still attempt to mislead the public into believing that such purchases would benefit the president in his personal capacity when in actual fact the opposite is the case.
It has been alleged that the purchase of the motor vehicles was not initiated or authorised by the BDF high command. It is alleged that Office of the President ordered the purchase of the motor vehicles which are currently not in use by the UK military.
A local publication, Business Weekly and Review recently reported that the BDF is buying about 500 obsolete Range Rover Defender from the UK. The publication has also indicated that the 500 motor vehicles are in a bad state and would be costly to the BDF. It further reported that President Ian Khama was involved in the buying of the Range Rovers.