The P2, 2 billion Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) was a slight of hand by government to legitimise corruption and give lucrative tenders to friends ÔÇô minutes of a closed door meeting between the Botswana Corruption Curbing Task Force and leaders of the country’s construction industry have suggested.
The meeting of June 15th 2017 chaired by Business Botswana President, Lekwalo Mosienyane revealed perceptions inside the Botswana’s construction industry that the ESP was designed to institutionalise and legitimise corruption. “Several members concurred that awarding of tenders was very dubious and highly suspicious”, state the minutes of the meeting.
The ESP was fashioned to parcel out government tenders to favoured contractors and to close out competition. Although the DCEC was engaged to investigate the multi-billion pula initiative it could not probe preferential treatment because ESP policy had legitimised it.
“It was further stated that the requirements of ESP projects were not favourable to all business as according to government, most projects were awarded tenders after selective tendering, and thus questioning the legitimacy of engaged contractors and award processing. Members decried the ineffectiveness of the ESP committee overseen by the Office of the President, whom are not aware of issues pertinent to the programme”, states the record of proceedings.
The meeting came a few days before The former Director General (DG) of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), Rose Seretse told the media that that they had not recorded any corruption cases pertaining to awarding of Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) projects tenders.
She was responding to journalists’ queries on whether the institution ever unveiled any misdemeanours in multimillion Pula projects awarded for ESP.
The question was triggered by the DG’s earlier presentation that: “In an effort to mitigate the corruption risks that would normally come with initiatives such as ESP, the DCEC set up an anti-corruption task force to monitor ESP projects. To date, spot checks have been conducted on different projects across the country in the Central, North West, Ghanzi, Southern Districts and Francistown.”
This was during the DCEC Pitso the institution hosted at Tlotlo Hotel and Conference Centre recently. “I wish to state that the task force was formed to curb corruption, also to enhance the quality of the procurement process and award decisions as well as implementation of the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP). The task force observed that, in some instances procurement procedures as set out by Public Procurement and Disposal Board (PPAD) and LAPAD acts were violated,” explained Nlayidzi Gambule, DCEC spokesperson.
He further highlighted that the Task Force recommended that procurement personnel follows the rules and procedures of procurement as laid down.
It has emerged that a lot of contractors who were not on the favoured list of the government enclave found themselves without contracts because all government projects were put under the ESP. “Tendering for government projects was almost impossible now since all projects qualified as ESP projects” states the record of the closed door meeting.
The record further states that, “with regard to the Economic Stimulus Package (ESP), it was reported that it had brought a lot of stress to most companies, especially in the construction sector. Introduction of ESP had brought hope to many businesses. Further, it was reported that when ESP was introduced to the public there was so much hype about it and all of a sudden everything went quiet. The sector with other industry players alike tried to engage and advice government and/or try to get answers from government to no avail.”
The meeting also recorded complaints that all ESP “hose building jobs have been awarded to the Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) whom does not engage services of consultancy-architects and quantity surveyors, only a select few in the engineering field are enjoying business with BHC. And this attests to corruption as it is not competitive business or bidding.”
The Vice Chairperson of the meeting, Markos Markides is recorded stating that “it was very difficult for members to report corruption due to fear of discrimination and victimisation by the relevant authourities.” He further stated that “the system neither punishes the guilty nor request for information on such speculation and whistle-blowing.”