Saturday, October 31, 2020

BOT 50 in multi-million tender row

The Botswana Fifty Anniversary of Independence (BOT 50) which is still reeling from the controversy that it plagiarized Jamaica’s 50th independence anniversary logo was this week mired in a fresh controversy of conflict of interest in the evaluation of tenders for the multimillion pula contract to procure Choreography services for the opening ceremony of Botswana’s 50th independence.

A local advertising agency, the Dialogue Group on Friday filed an urgent application with the High Court in Lobatse in a bid to stop the BOT 50 Secretariat from continuing with the evaluation process in a case that is expected to open a can of worms.

It has emerged in the court papers that the BOT 50 project evaluation team disqualified The Dialogue Group citing invalid tax clearance even though BOT 50 was in possession of a valid tax clearance certificate which was submitted by the Dialogue Group together with their expression of interest documents.  Curiously, the evaluation team chose to disregard the valid tax clearance certificate in favor of the invalid certificate.

In their court papers, the Dialogue Group expresses concern that one of the BOT 50 board members who was part of the evaluation team, Jacob Sesinyi may have influenced the team to disqualify the Dialogue Group from the tender because one Terry Behan had refused to partner with Sesinyi on the project and instead chose to work with the Dialogue Group.

As part of the evidence presented before court, the Dialogue group presented copies of e-mail correspondence between Sesinyi and Terry Behan.

In an e-mail message of 13th April 2015, Sesinyi wrote to Behan stating “This serves to explore possibilities of collaborating with your company in a long term in the events management and production of some significant national events in Botswana such as the independence celebrations. I am aware that your company have (sic) done some work in Botswana during the recent Youth Games, but I believe that through our collaboration we can even get bigger and better things to do here.”

Sesinyi ended his e-mail message by stating, “I also have very good networks in both government, the private sector and the political landscape and I am sure that I can use these networks to leverage good projects.”

Beham responded by return mail on the same day stating: “Thanks for the email. We enjoy working in Botswana and have an existing partnership with the Dialogue group. If however you have experiential projects where assistance is required with the delivery, we would welcome a discussion.”

At the time, Terry Behan was CEO of VWV’s EMEA division, producers together with The Dialogue Group of the Africa 2014 African Youth Games opening and closing ceremonies. It is not clear how the communication between Sesinyi and the VWV group ended after Terry Behan left the group to set up his own company Think Africa Group. It has however since emerged that the

VWV is now partnering with Red Pepper PR & Communication Consultancy in their bid for the BOT 50 tender.

The Dialogue Group revealed in their court papers that it had learnt that Red Pepper PR and Communications Consultancy had been tipped to win the tender. “All this did not sit well with Applicant (Dialogue Group) as there appeared to be procedural irregularities in the evaluation of its bid, bias and general lack of transparency.”

The Dialogue Group is unhappy that Sesinyi failed to declare his interest in terms of the PPADB Act or recuse himself from discussions and adjudication of a tender involving VWV.  

Sesinyi was also the proposer of the controversial Botswana Electronic Music Festival BEMF 2015 which was sponsored by BOT 50. The BEMF 2015 tendering process was also caught up in controversies forcing Minister Thapelo Olopeng to go on his Facebook page distancing himself from the project tender ward process saying he was out of the country “when the transaction took place. “The minister stated that, “when I got back I called both parties (my officers, BOT50 representatives, and music promoters) to a meeting,” Olopeng wrote. “We discussed this matter and agreed on a way forward because the contract for this one was already signed as I was told.”

There are already fears that the BOT50 celebration project may be plundered and Gaborone North MP, Haskins Nkaigwa recently asked Minister Olopeng to name members of the BOT50 board and how the board was put together. Minister Olopeng refused to disclose names of board members and was evasive about the criteria used to select the board.

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