Sunday, July 25, 2021

Audit exposes GCC ÔÇô Acute Engineering sleaze

Acute Engineering which was contracted to fit and maintain Gaborone LED street lights was fraudulently paid up to P30 million by the Gaborone City Council – a technical audit has revealed.

A team of experts tasked with auditing the controversial 15 year contract between GCC and Acute Engineering has recommended that the contract which was awarded under questionable circumstances be terminated forthwith. The technical audit further recommended that Acute Engineering should reimburse the city council up to P 30 million which it invoiced fraudulently.

“P7, 593 000 00 paid to Acute Engineering as payment for audit and project management should be recovered. It was mobilisation payment disguised as a fee for audit services and besides that, the provision of audit services was a deliverable of Acute Engineering under the contract for which Gaborone City Council was not supposed to incur any costs” states the audit report.

It further states: the audit team recommends that the full amount of P20 519 546 including VAT for LED light fittings paid to Acute Engineering as at certificate 11 should be recovered forthwith as all LED light fittings were part of the original contract where the contractor was contractually obliged to provide initial capital outlay and recover their cost from electricity bill savings.”

The audit team also recommended that “a financial audit of the Gaborone City Council be undertaken to establish whether the unsecured loan of P6 000 was disbursed to Acute Engineering. If it is found that the funds have been disbursed, the money should be recovered from Acute Engineering forthwith because the loan was un-procedurally approved.”

The audit team stopped short of slamming the award of the contract as corrupt but stated that “the procurement process was littered with errors and blatant omissions.” They recommended that the contract which is in its third year of its 15 year run be terminated. The technical audit team comprised the chairmen Lekwalo Mosienyane who is an architect and urban designer, Frederick Selolwane a quantity surveyor, Simon Mmopi a civil engineer, Gloria Gaosikwele an electrical engineer and Goodwill Madibela an electrical engineer.

The team was appointed last year September by the then Minister of Local Government Peolonomi Venson to audit the controversial tender. This was after her assistant minister

Botlogile Tshireletso admitted to parliament that the awarding of the 15 year contract by the GCC had raised eyebrows within her ministry.

“Though procurement was done through an open tender, the duration of the contract has also drawn my attention and I have directed my officials to examine the contract and I shall revert to the Honourable Member in due course,” Tshireletso said when answering a question from Gaborone North Member of Parliament Haskins Nkaigwa. “We have enquired from the Gaborone City Council and they informed us that the company’s performance is currently satisfactory.”

According to the contract, Acute Engineering Property Limited has been given responsibility to maintain streetlights along major roads while the GCC maintains streetlights within residential areas through its in-house maintenance teams.

Tshireletso said while some parts of the city remain dark due to budget constraints, theft, vandalism and old infrastructure information from the GCC, who are the direct supervisors of the contractor, indicates they are satisfied with the capacity of the contractor.

“However, as I have already indicated, I will cause the matter to be investigated.”  The Minister was responding to a question from Gaborone North Member of Parliament, Haskins Nkaigwa who had asked if the ministry was aware of a company that was awarded a tender for the installation and maintenance of street lighting in Gaborone for 15 years and if so, to state the name of the company and how their services were procured. He also questioned the performance of the said company, how the company was awarded such a tender despite its lack of capacity and if the Assistant Minister was aware that as a result, Gaborone was a dark city. “Speaking to Sunday Standard Nkaigwa said the company was getting paid on a monthly basis by the City Council despite failure to carry out its responsibilities. He said the 15 year maintenance and installation contract was totally against local procurement practices. Councilor for Gaborone Block 9 Sesupo Jacobs said they, together with fellow councilors, had been enquiring about the procurement process that led to the awarding of the lengthy contract but without much success. He told Sunday Standard the company had been awarded multiple GCC tenders.

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