Saturday, May 30, 2020

Masisi faces swift-boating attack over water tenders?

The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) was this week pushing back against what appears to be a swift-boating campaign to paint a black portrait of President Mokgweetsi Masisi as a corrupt leader.

This followed anonymous Facebook and group WhatsApp group posts that spun a complex tale of how Masisi threw out the rule book to personally award an P800 million water contract to Khato Civils in return for a generous donation for the BDP and how former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Thatayaone Dedede was demoted and redeployed for trying to block the plan.

An independent investigation by the Sunday Standard however suggests that Dedede’s redeployment did not have anything to do with the award of the tender to Khato Civils.

Permanent Secretary to the President Carter Morupisi transferred Dedede to the Botswana Public Service College as Deputy Director in May this year, which was before 7th June, the closing date of the tenders for the controversial project.

By Friday evening, the Facebook apparent political kite had not gathered enough wind to keep it airborne as both the BDP and Khato Civils debunked the story.

According to the Facebook post, the project awarded to Khato Civils was not part of the National Development Plan 11 and it did not have a budget. The post further claimed that Khato Civils conceptualized the project instead of the ministry.

It has however emerged from a response by Khato Civils that the projects at the center of the controversy were planned and advertised before Masisi became president.

Responding to a Sunday Standard questionnaire Khato Civils Group CEO Mongezi Mnyani stated : “Khato Civils wishes to put on record that we have never at any stage conceptualised any project and it is very much obscured that certain individuals can credit a private company to influence how a government project has to be undertaken. Khato Civils like any other construction company responded to a public tender advertisement that was published through government gazette and advertised in various newspapers as Tender WUC 016 (2018) Water Project in Botswana. 

The tender was advertised in March 2018 and it was for Design and construction of approximately 100 km and associated works from Masama wellfield to Mmamashia water treatment plant.  The tender closed on the 7thJune, 2018 and there were 13 companies in total that submitted their bids. There was never any selective tender process undertaken towards the award of this tender in favour of Khato Civils.  Khato Civils has never at any stage discussed nor had a meeting with officials from Water Utilities Corporation or the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services to conceptualise any project in Botswana. The insinuation that Khato Civils is able to influence and collude with politicians to be awarded contracts is ridiculous and nonsensical and actually undermines the degree of intelligence of government officials who are entrusted in making critical decision on behalf of Batswana people.

Khato Civils-NTR JV was also awarded the contract for the refurbishment of NSC 1 Pump Stations PS1.1 and PS2.1 and this was advertised between July and August 2017 and awarded on the 16 February 2018.

Both projects as mentioned above were planned and advertised long before the current Minister and President came to power. As far as we know these projects form part of long term strategy for ensuring that there is consistent and sufficient water supply to people of Botswana and more in particular Greater Gaborone area.”

The facebook and group whatsup posts further claimed that the Khato Civils’ initial bid was later inflated and the balance of about P600 million was given to the BDP as campaign donation.

Khato Civil however insists that, “the tender price for the project as submitted by Khato Civils has never changed and people are free to go and inspect the original tender documents,” said Mnyani.

He added: “This tender was issued by the Water Utilities Corporation as mentioned in part (a) of our response above and according to our knowledge the evaluation process was carried out by them and not the Ministry,” he said.

The BDP also issued a press release insisting that neither the party nor any of its officials “have ever received any funds from Khato Civils or any of its representatives. It is our view that the claims originate from people who view the current administration’s zero tolerance for corruption as detrimental to their political welfare.”

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Sunday Standard May 24 – 30

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of May 24 - 30, 2020.