BY KHONANI ONTEBETSE & REUBEN PITSE
A section of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) leadership that is pushing back against President Masisi’s attempt to stop the flow of dirty money into politics has closed rank around a Chinese contractor whose multi million Pula tender was stopped following intelligence information of alleged corruption.
The Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS) has stopped a P900 million tender to China Jiangsu International Botswana after it emerged that a former Cabinet Minister was to receive a P 30 million bribe for the tender.
The Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Service recently instructed the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) to cancel the tender it had awarded to China Jiangsu International Botswana after it uncovered the illegal deal between the China Jiangsu boss and a former cabinet minister.
The controversial tender was for designs, supply and build of water distribution network, sanitation, reticulation, telemetry and scada and other associated works in Maun.
While the Ministry has cited security reasons for cancelling the tender, Sunday Standard can reveal that the tender was cancelled at the instance of the DIS after receiving information on alleged corruption in the award of the tender.
The China Jiangsu International Botswana tender cancellation is part of a DIS investigation that has turned up information that electoral clientelism in Botswana is on the rise and corruption is a major source of campaign financing, as are private individuals seeking to curry favor with politicians.
The investigation further revealed that the point of access for dirty money into politics has shifted from political parties to individual cabinet ministers and impunity at the state level is often the service expected in return for dirty money.
It further emerged that the cost of buying votes has ballooned in what has become a vote-sellers’ market. Parties and political factions spend enormous amounts to maintain patronage groups, which marshal the vote come election time.
The decision by DIS to stop the tender has incited a strong political rebuff from a section of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) leadership who claim the decision was politically motivated to deplete their war chest ahead of the July challenge for Masisi’s presidency.
The China Jiangsu International Botswana tender controversy is part of a major pushback by some BDP ministers against Masisi’s attempt to wean ministers off the tender award process in a bid to stem the flow of dirty money into Botswana politics.
Responding to Sunday Standard queries, PPADB Public Relations and Education Manager Charles Keikotlhae stated that “…PPADB acknowledges the receipt of the request from the Ministry on the tender. The Board is still to deliberate on the matter which is treated as confidential until the Board has made a decision on it.”
In a letter dated 30 November 2018 and addressed to the Ministry, China Jiangsu International Botswana Managing Director, Cui Wanglin states that “we refer to the information as published on the Daily News No. 194 dated 16 October 2018…”
He added that “…We believe that we have a legitimate expectation that the project by now should have been awarded to us as the procurement cooling period has long passed and we have not been advised of any other further appeals. We thus request you to favour us with the progress status of the award of this project.”
In another letter dated 14 January 2019, addressed to PPADB, lawyers representing the Chinese company, Monthe Marumo & Company stated that the decision of the award was dully published in the Weekly Tender Bulletin and Daily News of 30 October, 2018 following independent evaluation.
“… But our client has to date not received a letter of award or written communication of contract award from the procuring entity since the award of the tender.”
The lawyers added that “Notwithstanding various enquiries undertaken by our client with the Procuring Entity, the latter has not provided a reason valid or otherwise as to why our client has not been issued with a letter of award and provided a contract to be signed by our client in order to commence the purpose of the tender.”
The lawyers stated further that conduct of the Ministry which is the Procuring entity is a far cry from the Provisions of the Public procurement and Asset Disposal Act which imposes obligations on both the Procuring and Disposing entities to be open and transparent to ensure value for money for the public revenue.
“Our client has recently become aware of the conducts by the procuring entity intended to undo the procurement process in particular the award to our client by means illegal which do not form part of the Invitation to Tender (ITT) and attempt to induce the PPADB to reverse its decision when it is already functus officio ( an agency whose mandate has expired either because of the arrival of an expiry date) and had exhausted its mandate with respect to the award of such tender,” said the lawyers.
Monthe Marumo & Co said that “We are writing this correspondence to the Honourable Attorney General in order to bring the issue to his attention as the legal representative of the Ministry…For the Ministry to deliver a contract to our client as the successful bidder for signature in order to enable our client to undertake commencement of the awarded project. “
The lawyers said, “We seek from the Attorney General and the PPADB a written undertaking within five days from the date of this correspondence that they will not reverse the award for an unlawful or illegal reason.”
They added that “In the event of such written undertaking not being delivered as aforesaid, it will leave our clients with no option but to approach the High Court for an interdict and ancillary relief pending the launching of proceedings aforesaid.”
Replying, Augustine Tema, PPADB’s Divisional Manager stated in a letter dated 21 January 2019 that “The Board at its meeting held on the 17th January considered and noted the contents of your letter…”
He said the Board resolved that “That there is a submission from the Ministry relating to the tender however the Board is constrained to divulge the details of the submission before a decision is made on the said submission. “
According to Tema, “The constraint is in terms of Section 91,92,93 of the PPADB Act and Clause 11,25 of the Operations Manual and that the Board has not made a decision on the Ministry’s submission.”
He concluded thus “In response to the issue where you direct the Board to make an undertaking that it (the Board) will not reverse the award for any unlawful or illegal reason, the Board’s highlights that in all instances, it always acts within the confines of the PPADB Act being the very statute that the Board derives power from.”
The Ministry’s spokesperson Maikano Osenkeng said they were ‘working on a response’ to Sunday Standard queries and promised to have ‘responded by end of business today ‘(Friday) but had not done so at the time of going to press.