Saturday, January 16, 2021

Gov’t instructs DCEC to investigate Morupule B Power Station saga

Following the glaring reports of impropriety in the tendering and eventual award of the Morupule B Power Station Project tender to a Chinese company, the government this week dispatched information instructing the Directorate of Economic Crime and Corruption to check allegations of corruption at the Botswana Power Corporation- a move calculated to clear the mist currently surrounding the multi million pula project.

Officiating at a Thursday financiers conference, designed to lure local and world renowned potential investors to financially assist the government and make the project a reality, the Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, expressed doubt over media reports that the tendering and the eventual awarding of the Morupule B Power Station Project to the China National Electric Equipment Corporation and the Shenyang Blower Works Electro-Mechanics Import and Export Co. Ltd (CNEEC-SBW Consortium) was conducted under questionable and suspicious circumstances.

Kedikilwe insisted that “the ministry takes seriously any allegations of possible impropriety in the procurement process that involves public funds”.
“It is for this reason, and in the interest of transparency and good governance, that the ministry has referred the matter to the DCEC to look into any complaints and allegations of the wrong doing or impropriety,” he said.

Kedikilwe argued that, at the moment, “these are unconfirmed reports without substance as nobody has come forward as the complainant to raise the issue”.

He allayed fears of prospective financiers, most of whom are from notable banks such as the World Bank and the Import and Export Bank of China.
For the past two consecutive weeks, The Sunday Standard carried damning reports of impropriety in the tendering and awarding of the Morupule B Power Station project to the CNEEC-SBW consortium, saying that some BPC officials were implicated in the saga and that their hands were allegedly greased to secure the project.

Despite these allegations, the minister assured prospective financers that investigations would not take long or inconvenience the commencement of the project adding that “given the need to urgently address the country’s impending power crisis, and the impact it is having on the economy and the lives of our people, the project is going ahead as scheduled”.

Kedikilwe defended the manner in which the tender was carried out, insisting that “the contractors who were invited to tender for the project were identified through a pre-qualification process as is the usual practice in projects of this nature. Advertisements to tender, under the Corporation’s Formal Open Tender Process, for the project were placed in the local press, The BPC website, the Economist magazine, the South Africa Sunday Times, Official journal of the European Community and some foreign embassies based in Botswana”.
Led by a team of renowned expert advisors, the project tender evaluation identified four qualified companies and, on the closing date, only the CNEEC-SBW consortium had submitted bids comprising of technical, commercial and financial proposals.

Besides recommending contractors on the basis of experience and capacity to undertake a project of the size of Morupule B, the expert advisors also afforded all competing contractors the same Tender Invitation Document (TID) which contained all technical requirements and specifications.
“It should be noted that the registration in China as grade A EPC Contractor was never a requirement at any stage of the tender process. In any event, CNEEC are registered in China as grade A EPC contractor,” he maintained.

He said following tender opening, at which both bidders prices were disclosed, it became necessary for the evaluation teams to embark on an extensive clarification process with both bidders, in an effort to align bids, where they fell short, to the requirements of the tender documents.
At the end of the clarification process, both bidders had increased their prices to reflect the cost implications of aligning their bids to the requirements of the tender invitation documents.
Kedikilwe said the clarification process was preferred over re-tendering as there were no indications that the re-tendering would attract any more or better responses given the tight EPC market at the time.

“At the end of the entire process, CNEEC-SBW’s price was lower than that of the competing bidder. The tender invitation documents invited bidders to submit financing proposals, but this was optional and failure to do so was never a basis for disqualification.”

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