Saturday, July 24, 2021

Blacklisted company furbishing smelter plant at BCL raises eyebrows

Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Kitso Mokaila last week defended the decision of BCL management to sideline local contractors and award a multi million Pula tender for refurbishment of the mine smelter to controversial South African mechanical and electrical engineering firm, Kentz SA. The awarding of the contract to Kentz SA caused uproar among citizen contractors, who complained that BCL was exporting jobs to South Africa. The company is already on site and has started its work as part of BCL mine’s smelter shut down, which entails large scale maintenance and renewal of production lines. During Ministers’ question time on Friday, Member of Parliament for Selebi Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse asked Mokaila to explain why BCL chose to engage a company whose credibility was questionable at the expense of local contractors. He added that there was evidence that the company was once blacklisted by the government of Botswana because of its shady operations. In response, Mokaila told Parliament that he does not know of any blacklisted company that has been engaged to refurbish a smelter plant at BCL mine. “I am not aware of the allegations. What I know is that Kentz Engineers and Contractors are well known South African contractors, having conducted similar business in various countries including Mozambique and Europe,” said Mokaila. Keorapetse also questioned the wisdom behind endorsing foreign companies at the expense of locals for the refurbishment of BCL smelter, saying there are suitable local companies that can do the job. The same sentiments were earlier expressed by citizen owned mechanical and electrical firms, which wrote a letter to BCL management seeking clarification on Kentz SA’s involvement on a contract that could easily be carried out by local firms. In the letter, the association also sought to revise the decision taken by BCL. At the time, BCL Managing Director Dan Mahupela said the tender for the management and execution of BCL’s shutdown was duly awarded to a tier 1 company, Kentz Engineers & Constructors, through a competitive bidding process and pursuant to the mine’s internal tender review committee protocols. Once again Mokaile came to BCL management’s defense in Parliament. “With only one smelting mine in the country, I wonder where these citizen contractors could have gained such experience. I know for a fact that all companies that were contracted for the same job before were well known international companies. Where did these local companies get this experience that they are talking about?’ he said. He added that Kentz Engineers and Contractors refurbished the smelter plant in 1995 and 2004. “This company has conducted similar operations across the world including in Europe and African countries including in Mozambique. They possess exceptional specialty in the field and their record is well known the world over,” said Mokaila. However, a group of citizen mechanical and electrical contractors have previously shot down the stance adopted by Mokaila and Mahupela, saying Kentz SA should not have been awarded the lucrative contract as it has no local representation and will not be paying taxes in Botswana. “We should not be exporting jobs that belong to Batswana to South Africa at a time when the economy needs to be jump started,” they said. Kentz SA has had a tempestuous relationship with Botswana, as its subsidiary was liquidated in Botswana a little less than a decade ago; leaving many local businesses that it owed millions in the lurch. It has emerged that companies that were owed by the Botswana subsidiary could not recover their money from Kentz SA as they were told that the two were different entities, even though it was clear that their shareholding and directorship was overlapping. It was suspected that the mother company in South Africa was deliberately liquidating its Botswana holding to avoid honoring its obligations to Botswana suppliers and creditors.

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