Thursday, June 4, 2020

Cabinet water tender divisions spill over to Parliament

Fifteen Botswana Democratic Party Members of Parliament turned against President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Finance Minister Kenneth Mathambo and voted with the opposition to block the request for P900 million for Masama project.

A number of Cabinet Ministers are believed to have violated the Cabinet principle of collective responsibility to vote alongside opposition MPs against the project.

This comes a few weeks after Permanent Secretary to the President Carter Morupisi issued a press statement rebutting a story by the Sunday Standard that Masisi’s cabinet is divided over the controversial water tender.

Morupisi stated that the story was “a deliberate misinformation purported to mislead the public. The fact of the matter is:
ÔÇó Cabinet never discusses allocation or award of tender(s) to any company and in this particular case, the construction of water supply lines.
ÔÇó We wish to state for the record that procurement and bids are NEVER a subject of Cabinet discussion. Therefore, it is a fallacy that Cabinet discussed the award of tender(s) to either Khato Civils or CCC. It is regrettable that the Newspaper chose to fabricate a story that suggests that Ministers were engrossed in the tender award debate. 
ÔÇó The purported deep differences between Ministers reported to polarize, paralyze and make decision making almost impossible are UNTRUE creations that are baseless, regrettable and must be dismissed with contempt. This is a reflection of sensational, biased and speculative news piece that gives only one side with deliberate intention to tarnish government’s image.
ÔÇó As a standing procedure, the President and his Cabinet do not partake on matters relating to procurement.

The Sunday Standard had reported that deep differences are stalking President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s cabinet as a result of big contracts related to water infrastructure. The paper revealed that cabinet ministers had already lined up behind different contractors.

“At the centre of it all are contractors Khato Civils and CCC.

At stake is the P20 billion allocated for water infrastructure under the National Development Plan 11.

The differences between ministers are so deep that they have started not only to polarize cabinet but also paralyze it and make reaching decisions almost impossible.

A section of members of cabinet want Government to do a P8 billion North South Carrier 2.

These cabinet ministers are behind CCC.

Another is of the view that given water scarcity in the south of the country, a hundred kilometer section from Masama would be ideal.

This would cost Government P800 million, delivered in eight months and would deliver all water needed in areas like Lobatse, Barolong, Mochudi, Molepolole, Thamaga, Kanye and Moshupa.

These ministers favour Khato Civils.”

Parliament last week voted against the a P900 million request for the Masama project after the Finance and Estimate Committee  said there were irregularities in the way the tender was handled.

Finance and Estimate Committee, Chairman Ignitions Moswaane said their findings were that the Masama project was a duplication of NSC 11.

The Masama project advert was flouted in March 2018 and awarded during former President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s term. Khato Civil were designers and contractors of the project because this was an emergency pipeline and had to be implemented within 12 months. The NSC 2.2 project was delayed and the Masama project was planned to assist in dealing with the current crisis of water in Greater Gaborone.

Moswaane indicated that during their investigation the committee found out that the tender had long been awarded despite that the funds were not available.  He said WUC management tender committee evaluated the tender in June 2018 and Khato Civils was deemed the lowest costs prices bidder among three bidders  which had proceeded to this stage at contract price of P781 million against the initial project budget of P750 million .  Moswaane noted that Khato Civils was advised of the conditions of the award as relating to fixed prices and non-escalation of costs as per the approved bid.

He said it was un-procedural for WUC to have awarded a tender and later come to parliament to seek funds.

Moswaane indicated that the guideline for the committee to approve funds for supplementary is that the event or project should have been unforeseen and not budgeted for or an emergency. Moswaane further informed parliament that WUC went ahead and awarded the tender despite that they are not allowed to float and award tenders. He said that WUC was banned from awarding tenders after failing to submit their procurement policies with Public Procurement Assert Disposal (PPADB).

  “The fact that the project was long tendered for implies that it was known and there was ample time for it to be budgeted for under proper procedure. This is not the case with the 100 KM Masama ÔÇôMmamashia Direct new pipeline,” said Moswaane in a report.

Bonnington South MP, Ndaba Gaolathe noted that information on the project was scanty and it was difficult to support Mathambo since there was tremendous quantum of resources involved.

Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition, Duma Boko emphasised that there was need to go back and reflect on the matter after the committee raised a red-flag about impropriety.

He said that it will be a dereliction of MP’s duties to approve such request when the committee has raised warning.  Meanwhile Mathambo noted that though he has noted their concerns there was a need to approve the P99 million and cause an investigations on the matter.

He noted that there was water deficit in the southern part of the country hence a need to approve the funds.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper

Cabinet caught up in a web of P240 million Covid-19 Tender

The fast-tracked procurement processes adopted by Covid-19 Presidential Task Force will come under renewed scrutiny when Botswana Government this week receives a...