Thursday, June 30, 2022

Airport project in fresh row

Designs of the new terminal building of the Sir Seretse Khama Airport are reported to have been padded, costing government an additional P200 million, but government may not recover the money because the project does not have architectural professional indemnity.

Sunday Standard investigations have turned up documents suggesting that the project is a cesspool of fraud, fronting and sleaze.

Investigations have revealed that NACO-Stewart Scott Airport Consultants, who tendered for “Consultancy Services for the design Review/Design Brief for Alternate Design Proposal for Extension of Terminal Buildings at Sir Seretse Khama Airport”, used Mosienyane and Partners International (MPI) as a front for their bid because the tender requirements specified a citizen architect with experience in airport designs.

Although Mosienyane and Partners International (MPI) professional indemnity was submitted with the bid, NACO-Stewart Scott used a South African architect instead.

Government may, however, find it difficult to claim any losses due to professional negligence from Mosienyane and Partners International (MPI) because the architects are reported to be complaining that the consultants misled the Public Procurement and Assets Disposal Board (PPADB) Department of Buildings and Engineering Services (DBES) and the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) into believing that MPI were involved in the project and that government is covered by the MPI professional indemnity.

Sources inside the Ministry of Works and Transport have passed to the Sunday Standard documents revealing that Mosienyane and Partners International have already filed a complaint with Minister Frank Ramsden, Vice President Mompati Merafhe, PPADB, BBES and BCA.

Among the documents are minutes of a presentation made by Leta Mosienyane of MPI to the Ministry in which, he among other things, raises questions about the architectural integrity of the project.
According to the minutes, NACO-SSI and its associates, among them MPI, were awarded the tender in January 2006, but NACO-SSI kept the information away from MPI and instead brought in architects from South Africa without informing government (client).

The minutes state that by so doing, NACO-SSI flouted the requirement of the tender terms of reference, which required that a local practice should form part of the consultancy.

NACO SSI disregarded the architect chosen by the government through the PPADB tender system and “fraudulently used the goodwill of MPI for their gain”.

NACO-SSI and its associates subsequently awarded the second contract, which was an extension of the first contract following a request by DBES to PPADB that they be allowed to negotiate the second contract directly without going through tender.

Mosienyane of MPI is recorded in the Ministry of Works and Transport minutes stating that, “It was at this negotiation stage that MPI discovered for the first time that the association had won the first contract and that it had been executed and completed without its involvement. MPI was, however, roped in because DBES insisted on other members of the bid winning association being part of the negotiation.

It was at this stage that questions about the architectural professional integrity of the multi-million pula project first surfaced.

According to the minutes from the ministry, “MPI received Scheme 1 from client in March 2007, which they had to develop into contract and construction drawings. MPI found the scheme to be deficient, had major design faults that rendered it inadmissible. MPI requested to prepare new designs pointing out the inadequacies of the one presented. After 13 weeks of negotiations where MPI were occasionally threatened with being thrown out of the contract, NACO-SSI agreed with MPI that scheme 1 be abandoned and Scheme 2 was prepared.

The minutes state that at this stage NACO-SSI unilaterally introduced the use of building components, which they had employed at their other projects elsewhere in the world, and not in environments similar to Botswana. As such, these components would have to be sources from overseas with long lead times and more expensive than their locally and regionally manufactured equivalents.

This would inevitably cause maintenance problems in future. On the occasion of the MPI’s objection, the project manager invited an Architect from South Africa to review MPI proposals and make recommendations. The RSA architect expressed their opinion that MPI was correct, however, that it was not compulsory that the drawings should be changed.

MPI reported the impasse to government ÔÇô DBES.

While government was still considering the matter under dispute, NACO- SSI unilaterally dismissed MPI without informing government and replaced the citizen architectural firm with a South African one.

The issue is further complicated by the fact that the project design was padded, raising the construction costs by close to P200 000. The project is a five storey building housing only two stories and the underutilized space for three additional stories is estimated at P 200 million.

An internal memo from DBES to the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Works and Transport, a copy of which has been passed to the Sunday Standard, states that, “as it stands now, it may appear that MPI were involved only to secure the award of the tenders to NACO-SSI, it can be interpreted that government has facilitated fronting, if government is silent regarding the non-involvement of MPI”.

The memo recommended that “government should act swiftly to save its integrity and to avoid what could be far reaching time delays and costs”.

That notwithstanding, both DBES and PPADB and DCAA have refused to intervene on the issue.

DCCA director’s office referred enquiries to Sekgele Kolo, who was involved in the project.

Kolo, on the other hand, referred the issue to Kenakekgotla Sebolao from the Department of Procurement.

Sebolao, in turn, referred the inquiries to the DCAA spokesperson, Modipe Nkwe, who was reported to be on leave.

PPADB spokesperson, Ditapole Tsheboeng, on the other hand, insisted on a questionnaire, while the Director of DBES would not comment saying he was held up in a meeting.

Former PS, Kago Moshashane, who at some stage was seized with the matter, would also not be drawn into discussing the issue.

MPI Managing Director, Leta Mosienyane, also declined to discuss the issue with Sunday Standard saying, “I will not discuss anything with the media. I am still waiting for a response from government on why I am being pushed aside.”

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