Sunday, October 25, 2020

BTC blinder boomerangs on shysters

Deceit and underhanded methods in a tender worth P60 million seems to be showing face in a Botswana Telecommunications Corporations (BTC) job that was not awarded to the organisation’s ‘chosen one’, a leaked document suggests.

The document further reveals that BTC management may have lied to support its company of choice.

The papers also shows that BTC management misled potential bidders that the procurement processes for the P68-million tender for the refurbishment of BTC Headquarters called Megaleng House was awarded through an open tender when it was not the case.

It emerges in the document marked “In Confidence” passed to the Sunday Standard that the tender for the refurhsment of Megaleng was dubiously awarded through selective tendering.

Sunday Standard has unearthed information indicating that BTC informed some bidders who had participated in the initial tender that it had been cancelled while it had already been awarded through selective tendering process.

The document also shows that the ‘new’ “Selective Tender No.MD & GMF 012/2015-16, Proposed Refurbishment of Megaleng House and Ancillary Link Buildings, Evaluation Report” was recently the subject of intense discussion and scrutiny within the BTC Headquarters.

The tender was split into two parts; general refurbishment which included paintings, partitioning and electrical installation and mechanical. The main contractor was to do the general refurbishment while the subcontracted companies were to provide services for electrical installations and mechanical.

A  letter from Mompati Makhulela of BTC Tender Committee to Cul de Sac Pty Ltd Project Manager Kebaabetswe Batsile informed the company that tender no BTCL 009 2015/16, Proposed Refurbishment Works to  Megaleng House and Ancillary Link Buildings: Electrical Installation has been cancelled.

It has also emerged that bidders were not aware that the awarded tender was done through a selective tendering process as they had only participated in the initial open tender. The tender was finally awarded to BJ builders. 

Responding to Sunday Standard queries BTC Public Relations Manager Golekanye Molapisi said: “The tender for the refurbishment of Megaleng was an open tender number BTCL 001/2015-16 which was advertised in the press on the April 17, 2015 and closed on May 15, 2015.”

This is in stark contrast to a letter from General Manager, Support Services & HR dated July 24, 2015 and marked “In Confidence” entitled “Selective Tender No. MD & GMF 012/2015-16, Proposed Refurbishment of Megaleng House and Ancillary Link Buildings, Evaluation Report” addressed to the Tender Committee Management.

The letter suggests that the committee requested clarification on a number of issues.

Key among them was why Cul de Sac Pty Ltd did not benefit from the tender. The General Manager – Support Services & HR, explained that the former company accepted that they missed the other page on pricing in their bid submission.

But in an interview, the Managing Director of Cul de Sac Pty Ltd Muyapo Machola denied that they had ever accepted that “they have missed a page on their bid submission”.

“We suspect that the tender was already awarded even before we were invited to submit tenders… I think somehow the tender was awarded outside the BTC office,” he said. Machola expressed shock that BTC awarded the tender after they had written to them informing them that the contract had been cancelled.

“We have been waiting for them to do the debriefing or issue us with a non-disclosure document as it is the norm but they did not. We later realised that they were trying to play some games but we refused to dance to their tune,” said Machola. 

He added that: “Later they told us that we should negotiate with a company called JB Builders so that it could sub-contract for us; we were shocked because to us such a company was non-existent.”

A BTC insider said there was no need to have awarded the tender for the refurbishment of the Megaleng building through a selective tendering process saying such as process should be used when dealing with complex matters such as consultancy services.

“I mean really the refurbishment of a building does not require specialists or expertise because any company can do it. Something went wrong with that tender. It is only that they wanted a company of their choice,” she said. The insider added that “should they have made it public “they would have not easily chosen a company of their choice.” She said BTC was not telling the truth that this was an open tender.

“Open tendering allows anyone to submit a tender to supply the goods or services that are required, generally in response to an advert giving notice that the contract is being tendered,” she said adding that selective tendering only allows suppliers to submit tenders by invitation. So it is not true that this was an open tender.”

The letter from General Manager Supportive Services& explains that: GM Support Services & HR to confirm maximum prices because we are going to relocate Megaleng during the refurbishment exercise.

“At this point in time, cost saving can only be made on the Bills of Quantities was that the project would be done on phases on a live site hence their prices were based on that,” reads the letter.

It states that: “Assuming we relocate all employees to an alternative site and the contractor a vacant site, there will be a reduction in construction period and would have taken care of the health and safety issues which cannot be reduced to monetary terms.”

The GM Support Services & HR states that the P68 840 000 that has been recommended to the Tender Committer of Board includes the Mechanical and Electrical installations.

“There was a provision that was made on the Main Bill of Quantities for Mechanical and Electrical installations, against which appointment will be made.  The mechanical and electrical tenders that are now floating are for nominated sub-contract works,” the letter states.

It added that: “The chosen sub-contractors will enter into respective nominated sub-contracts with the chosen main contractors as per the JB Builders form of contract which has been adopted for this project. All the potential contactors are aware that we will be using this form of contract and indicated on all tenders relating to this project.”

Molapisi said 19 contractors bought the tender document for the pre-qualification exercise which did not include the pricing. Of the 19 who bought the tender, only 18 submitted bids.

He said all contractors who submitted bids went through an evaluation exercise and only six contractors were shortlisted.

“The six shortlisted bidders were invited to submit a comprehensive bid including price. Five out of six invited bidders submitted their bids for evaluation,” he said.

On suggestion that some senior management officers appear to have misled potential bidders, Molapisi said: “The tender was approved and awarded by the Tender Committee of the Board. BTCL as a body corporate with thousands of Batswana as shareholders, adheres to highest standards of corporate governance.”

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