Monday, April 22, 2024

Gov’t “in and out” of court over SSKA

Government has been embroiled in legal wrangles with the initial contractor of the recently opened Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSKIA, Sinohydro Botswana. Currently the government has been dragged before the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Arbitral Tribunal over its decision to terminate Sinohydro’s contract. 


Minister responsible for Infrastructure, Nonofo Molefhi said Friday that following, Sinohydro’s failure to complete the renovation of the airport’s terminal building, government parted ways with the Chinese multinational company. The Sinohydro contract was also terminated because the Ministry was dissatisfied with the contractor’s overall performance. 


Giving a flashback on the project, Molefhi said that in 2008, when the decision to expand the airport was made, government had to contend with the fact that it did not have adequate in-house capacity to effectively execute such assignments within the given timeframe. According to Molefhi, the risk was then mitigated by augmenting government capacity by procuring professional services from the private sector, subsequent to which they assisted in procuring what government believed to be a top grade international contractor. 


“As the project progressed, we came to the realisation that the level of the contractor’s commitment started to decline as he failed to meet several project deadlines,” he said. 


After the contract was terminated, the contractor took the government of Botswana to the international commerce court.  


“We have been in and out of legal wrangles with the initial contractor following her inability to complete this project. We still have other legal matters pending before the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Arbitral Tribunal as we speak. We however stand convinced that, in public interest we took the right decision to terminate that contract. We are also hopeful that our decision to terminate for non-performance is a good lesson to others who may be having intentions to take short cuts in the implementation of government projects,” Molefhi said Friday. 


In May 2012, when accounting to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the then Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Infrastructure Dikagiso Mokotedi admitted that the project was initially started before the designs were complete, due to its urgency.  It was initially scheduled to be completed before the 2010 World Cup hosted by South Africa. The initial SSKIA expansion consisted of construction of a new state-of-the-art terminal building and extension of the existing runway, compliant with the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) requirements. The terminal building, with a cost over P140 million was officially opened by President Ian Khama on Friday.


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