Thursday, July 18, 2024

Ex-BDP activist explains how party controls tendering system

Towards the final days of the last parliament meeting, Mahalapye West MP, David Tshere, made a very serious allegation against the ruling Botswana Democratic Party: that it deliberately sabotages businesses owned by members of the opposition. The Government Bench immediately pounced on him, accusing him of fabricating false charges and challenging him to produce evidence. The Minister of State President, Kabo Morwaeng, said that what the Mahalapye West MP was saying was untrue and unparliamentary.

Vice President Slumber Tsogwane, who is also the Leader of the House, said that Tshere was in the habit of bringing false allegations to parliament. Tsogwane added that if public officers do indeed do what Tshere alleged, then he should bring evidence that they did so on the instructions of the BDP. However, what Tshere alleged and the BDP denied, has been confirmed by an opposition member who was a card-carrying BDP member for decades and even got to occupy elective political office in local government on the basis of the latter.

The latter assignment gave him rare opportunity to observe first-hand how the public procurement process works. On paper, such process is above board and doesn’t include politicians – which was the point Tsogwane made. On the other hand, the source says that politicians play a prominent role in the process. “Each ministry has a ministerial tender committee and members of that committee are appointed by the minister. Those committee members do what ministers want and are appointed to those committees for that reason.

In the case of councils, practically all of them are headed by BDP mayors and chairpersons as political heads and the administrative heads are town clerks and council secretaries. All town clerks and council secretaries are controlled by the Minister of Local Government who is always a BDP member. All these factors give the BDP a lot of power in how the public procurement process is managed,” says the source. In fairness to the BDP, not all opposition members have been locked out of the public procurement system.

However, getting paid after completing a job can be an uphill struggle. As one example, the source says that BDP operatives within this system can be instructed to find fault with an invoice (“e batleleng phosonyana”) in order to delay payment for months on end. Why that would happen, he explains, is that once that opposition member gets the money, he would be able to finance his party’s broader campaign to unseat the BDP.

“If the party had been struggling to reach some far flung areas for purposes of campaigning, he would easily finance trips to such areas,” the ex-BDP source says. “That represents a threat to the BDP.” Speaking in parliament, Tshere said that if a benefactor makes a donation of P10 000 or more to an opposition party, their bank account is immediately frozen for purposes of carrying out a know-your-customer (KYC) audit “which takes forever.”

The result would be that the targeted business is unable to operate, bills pile up and it ultimately collapses.

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