Sunday, April 18, 2021

Gov’t turns against Morupule B contractor

Botswana government this week stopped short of admitting that the Chinese company contracted to build the controversial Morupule B power plant has made a mess of things. As the relationship between Botswana government and China National Electric Equipment Corporation (CNEEC) unravels, the Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources Kitso Mokaila announced this week that they have appointed a German company to “identify problems created by CNEEC and rectify them.”

The decision to appoint the German company, STEAG Energy Services to take over the maintenance and operation services of Morupule B Power Station from CNEEC followed a collapse in the negotiations between Botswana Power Corporation and CNEEC.

Mokaila hinted that government is worried that CNEEC may not have followed set specifications and procedures in constructing the power plant.

Announcing government’s decision to appoint STEAG Energy Services, Mokaila said it had been difficult to establish why the Chinese company was experiencing repeated failures, and whether the company followed set specifications and procedures in constructing the plant. He explained that the German company that has been appointed to take over the maintenance and operation services of Morupule B “would be in a better position to identify problems created by CNEEC and rectify them.”

Explaining the appointment of STEAG, Mokaila further hinted that the relationship between CNEEC and Botswana had broken down; saying negotiations between Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) and CNEEC had reached a deadlock. Mokaila said the takeover effected January 1. The interim operations and maintenance agreement under which CNEEC had been providing services came to an end on 31 December. CNEEC was involved in the construction, maintenance and operation of Morupule B Power Station.

Mokaila said BPC at one point had to engage STEAG to help identify the problems at Morupule B. He said the engagement of STEAG would give the government and BPC the opportunity to have an oversight of what was happening. He said the project was expected to be completed by October 2012 with four units churning 150MW of electricity each. To date only two units are in operation. Mokaila said the coal fired power station was crucial for the economy of the country and that it was important to ensure that everything was delivered as agreed.

He said repeated power outages had inconvenienced people and that the government wants to ensure that the country had sufficient power supply. For his part BPC’s chief executive officer, Mr Jacob Raleru said Morupule B had been experiencing challenges that deterred it from operating at full capacity. Raleru said BPC had been negotiating with CNEEC but could not reach a consensus resulting in the engagement of STEAG.

He said CNEEC would continue with the construction programme. He noted that BPC could not have opened tenders for the maintenance and operation services of Morupule B because it was an emergency. “This is an emergency phase and we are hoping to go into a long term contract,” he said. He said STEAG was the right company to engage because they designed the equipment and were familiar with the project. He said the company was also involved in establishing why the plant incurred repeated failures.

STEAG’s operations and maintenance deputy head, Ralf Nagel said the plant was of a good quality but needed some modifications. Nagel also said the software that has been used by the Chinese company was familiar to his company. He said his company would introduce computerized maintenance and management systems that would help make future maintenance plans.

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