Saturday, January 23, 2021

Fuelling stations mushrooming on the back of leaked business information

An officially confidential plan by the government to outsource fuelling services to the private sector has been leaked and according to good sources, is the reason why fuelling stations are mushrooming countrywide.

While aware of this, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime is said to be helpless because the setting up of a fuelling station is a lawful business activity that nobody can be investigated or prosecuted for. Years ago, the government commissioned a study to examine the feasibility of outsourcing fuel services of its Central Transport Organisation (CTO) to the private sector in order to improve service delivery. The aim of the exercise was to identify the most cost effective and efficient option and included fuelling government vehicles at private fuelling stations.

Government typically takes absolute ages to make anything happen and to date, CTO still bears the burden of being the sole provider of fuel services for the government fleet. However, a decision was taken in the previous administration to offload this responsibility to the private sector. Only a few people were supposed to know that and keep the information to themselves. That didn’t happen and the leakage of the information led to the mushrooming of fuelling stations. These stations hope to cash in when the government finally turns to the private sector for fuelling services.

The problem though is that this comes with a risk because the current administration can just as easily decide to retain CTO as the sole supplier and improve its service delivery. Such likelihood is heightened by the fact that the current administration is reversing some decisions made by the previous one ÔÇô especially dubious ones.

In the event that happens, those who had hoped to cash in would be unable to claim that the government gave them a raw deal – nobody was ever asked to construct a fuelling station in anticipation of a windfall that would be occasioned by the outsourcing of this service. Investment decisions motivated by leaked information are nothing new in Botswana. On being tipped off by those with inside information, some people have bought land earmarked for development projects in the hope that the government would later buy back such land from them at a much higher price.


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