The ministry of minerals energy and water resources has allegedly gone ahead with awarding the Morupule B unit 5&6 tender despite instructions from Office of the President. The instructions to delay the awarding of the tender were issued following a Sunday Standard expose that a company: Marubini & Posco (MP) that was fingered as the preferred bidder should have been disqualified at stage one of the tendering process. Two consultancy firms (TDI and Aurecon) who were engaged by MMEWR to assess bids both showed that MP had far too many material variations that made it unsuitable to carry out unit 5&6 developments. Further information from an internal memo showed that even experts at the ministry were not comfortable with Marubini being granted preferred bidder status as among other things its projected date of completion was 2020 while its competitor KEPCO projected completion date was 2018 which fell within the time the Botswana government targeted for energy self-sufficiency.
Mokaila announced at a February Press briefing that awarding of the 5&6 was imminent but no announcement has been made to date allegedly on orders from OP. It has however since emerged that MP officials are in the country and have been looking to recruit the first batch of local managers and clearing of bushes at Morupule B is already underway. According to a source at MMEWR, the decision to give 5&6 was long taken and fearing protest from KEPCO a ploy was undertaken to eliminate KEPCO from the bid.
It was thus that MMEWR made a request to the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) to open negotiations with KEPCO which was duly approved. The request Tender no: PR 10/1/3/15-8 was submitted on the 11th of April 2016 exactly 4 weeks after Minister Mokaila said announcement of the winning bid for 5&6 will be made. KEPCO as the only other company to make the final cut alongside Marubini was recommended by the two consulting firms as the best bidder for unit 5&6. PPADB is understood to have approved the request from MMEWR. This has puzzled industry insiders who have wondered when and how moves for unit 7&8 can be effected when 5&6 has yet to be awarded. An official at MMEWR has expressed scepticism over the awarding of 7&8 saying it ‘felt’ wrong. “We have not awarded the tender for 5&6 to either Marubeni or KEPCO. Why are we offering KEPCO 7&8? How sure are we that they can handle the construction of 4 units?” the official asked. The direct offering of 7& 8 is seen as mischief on the part of MMEWR by industry insiders who suspect the ministry is appeasing KEPCO as Marubeni has already been promised 5&6 despite not being up to standard. This concern was highlighted in a communique seen by this reporter where PPADB cautioned that the request for direct appointment of KEPCO was “hopefully not done to settle the 5&6 issue” the apparent misgivings on the part of PPADB are prevalent in the energy industry with some suspecting that negotiations of 7&8 was likely a red herring meant to distract and eliminate KEPCO from the 5&6 race.
“KEPCO has capacity to start work immediately so the question is are we going to have 7&8 constructed before 5&6?” an Energy expert asked further raising the possibility that the start of negotiations for direct appointment was a ploy to give Marubini time to secure funds and even deal with the 34 deviations that the consultants found to serious. The deviations should Marubini win the tender will add an extra 4 billion pula to the total cost of Morupule B 5&6 construction Budget. It has further emerged that no feasibility study or bankability study for 7&8 was done leading to further doubts about the viability of the project. There are also doubts as to whether there is enough space for 7&8 at Morupule B. The delay in the awarding of 5&6 threatens to make a liar of President Seretse Khama Ian Khama who promised in his state of the nation address that Botswana will be electricity self-sufficient in 2018 when he leaves office.