Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Govt deploys security at troubled Morupule B

The Government has deployed additional security at the troubled Morupule B power plant allegedly to ensure that China National Electric Equipment Corporation (CNEEC) does not sabotage the plant as it hand over to STEAG Energy Services, the newly appointed German company. The plant has been classified as a high security area. Sunday Standard has been informed that a few weeks before the Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resource, Kitso Mokaila announced the appointment of STEAG Energy Services to take over the maintenance and operation services of Morupule B Power Station, state security personnel was secretly deployed to safeguard the plant.

Sunday Standard turned up information that the Chinese contractor has been blackmailing Botswana with a threat to pull the plug off the project or abandon it all together if they are not exempted from paying the P600 million they owe the taxman in unpaid value added tax (VAT). The threat came after the Botswana Revenue Services (BURS) obtained a garnishee order allowing them to impound the CNEEC payment from the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC).

BPC was forced to violate the High Court order and pay CNEEC its money because the Chinese company was threatening to either abandon the project or switch it off. The Chinese company had initially approached government for a tax exemption. When their proposal was turned down, they then turned to the BPC to masquerade as the importer of construction material from China, thus offloading liability for VAT on the Botswana parastatal.

Although the Chinese company has been claiming its VAT refunds from BURS, it has not been paying its share of VAT, which has accumulated to a staggering P600 million. The tense relationship between the CNCC and the Botswana government escalated when negotiations over the repair and maintenance of the plant reached a deadlock, with government deciding to ditch the Chinese contractor and bringing in STEAG Energy Services. BPC Spokesperson Spencer Moreri’s told the Sunday Standard that “BPC security matters are not subject to the third party discussions”.

He pointed out that Morupule B power plant is a high security area and public movement is also restricted. He added that in other countries such strategic posts are often guarded by soldiers. Officer commanding for Serowe, Senior Superintendent Frenkel Mohutsiwa however insists that security personnel deployed around the area was mainly meant to patrol and beef up security following an increase in cable theft cases at the plant.

Mohutsiwa added that at some stage, they had a high number of break ins where valuable items were stolen and it has often been very difficult to make any arrests. The only ideal solution was to have police officers who would permanently work hand in with BPC authorities to curb criminal activities that were occurring within the area.

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