The Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Kenneth Matambo, has acknowledged that project implementation remains one of the major challenges facing the government.
“During NDP 10, the development budget has been underspent by an average of 17.3 percent for the years 2011/2012 through 2013/2014, due to delayed project implementation. Even where projects are finally delivered, they are usually characterised by cost overruns and questionable quality. It is against this background that Government continues to take measures to improve on project implementation,” Matambo said.
One such measure will see the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) implementing the Integrated Procurement Management System to enhance procurement management, improve transparency, and reduce lead times in public procurement.
The minister said that this system provides a platform for online bidding, which includes preparation of procurement plans; generation of invitation to tender documents; downloading of documents by contractors; online tender submission, as well as online adjudication. The PPADB is also said to have intensified the training of Procuring Entities, Committees of the Board, Ministerial Tender Committees, and District Administration Tender Committees to enhance their procurement skills.
Only time will tell whether PPADB’s intervention will bear fruit. What time has told at this point is that while the government proclaims commitment to improving project implementation, what happens on the ground is the opposite. A fortnight ago, Botswana’s premier project implementation consultancy, Innolead Consulting, co-hosted a seminar at the Gaborone International Convention Centre with Oracle Primavera. The latter has done project management for some of the biggest international multi-billion pula like the Airbus 380 and a power station in South Africa that is eight times the size of Morupule B.
What came out during the discussions strongly suggests that governmental operational processes and systems are not well primed for project management. During the question-and-answer session, a Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) representative sought to know whether the project management training was bearing any fruit. In response, Oabona Kgengwenyane, the Group Managing Director of Innolead Consulting, said that the outcome is not always what is desirable.
“The current situation doesn’t allow people to use skills they have learnt,” Kgengwenyane said.
By his account, some of the engineers who receive project management training from his company are not given responsibilities in line with this training but resume their normal duties when they get back to the office. The head of the Innolead Consulting academy (i-Academy as it is called), Okitanye Gaogane, who personally conducts some of the training, said that some people come for the training just because their supervisors don’t want to see them around the office.
After the training, these people go back to the office and their normal work without ever being required to put their project management training to use. Kgengwenyane recalled a conversation with a permanent secretary who hazarded a guess that government loses billions of pula due to cost overruns.