Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Ndelu Seretse in PPADB row

The Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) Supplies Division has recommended that a proposal by the Office of the President for retroactive authority to pay for Minister Ndelu Seretse’s expensive refrigerator should be rejected because tender procedures were violated during procurement.

Seretse, the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, bought a P 46 000 refrigerator for his official residence, overshooting the official budget for minister’s kitchen items, which has been set at P20, 185.

The P20, 185 budget covers collective purchase of kitchen items, an electric refrigerator, electric chest freezer, ironing board, kitchen table, kitchen chairs/stools, washing machine and microwave oven.

The Supplies Division to the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) has recommended that a request by OP for retroactive authority to pay for the refrigerator should be rejected as standard procedure was not followed. This is supported by the fact that while the need to purchase the refrigerator arose in November 2009, the actual purchase was done on 30 March 2010 suggesting that there was no urgency.

“The Division is therefore of the view that this was not an emergency procurement, nor was it urgent as it took four (4) months from need identification to the actual purchase. This was enough time to follow the appropriate tender requirements. The Board may therefore reject the request for a retroactive authority,” reads a report analysis prepared by the Supplies Division. This followed a written request from OP for authority to pay Life Style (PTY) LTD P45, 999 for the refrigerator that has already been bought for the minister’s residence.

The Sunday Standard learns that on 24 March 2010, the Ministerial Tender Committee (MTC) wrote to OP indicating that “the cost of the refrigerator exceeds the threshold limit of the kitchen prices”. Related to this, the PE was referred to a savingram (Ref: OPC 8/1/4 II (200) authored by Permanent Secretary to the President, Eric Molale, reminding Accounting Officers that furniture should be purchased or replaced in strict accordance with the provisions of the Green Book. The savingram according to the PPADB “further states that any requests to replace furniture before the expiry of its official period of use, which is ten (10) years, will not be approved unless clear evidence of significant damage due to fair wear and tear can be provided.”

Contacted for comment, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security, Bruce Palai, said he was not aware of the said purchase as the said purchase could have occurred before he joined the ministry. Occasionally a ministry may ask for retroactive approval for a decision it has made.” It is not abnormal for a ministry to approach PPADB asking for approval,” Palai told the Sunday Standard.

Seretse confirmed that a refrigerator was purchased by the government for his residential use but claimed he was not privy to the procedures governing the purchase.

“I would not know the procedure that follows such purchases. My refrigerator stopped functioning last year after an electrical fault. It was repaired but it never worked again. In the meantime I brought another refrigerator at my personal expense before I was bought a new one this year.”
Seretse claimed he knew neither the purchase price nor the supplier and wondered what was newsworthy about the purchase of a refrigerator. “Don’t you have any important news to write about?” Seretse quipped.

The PPADB spokesperson, Ditapole Tseboeng, was not available for comment.
Information passed to the Sunday Standard is that OP purchased the refrigerator without the authority of the Ministerial Tender Committee because there were “some lengthy discussions between OP and MTC, which involved interpretation of the Green Book —— Section 18, 19 and 20. The initial request to purchase a refrigerator was submitted to the MTC on 24th November 2009 and the MTC deferred its decision and wrote back to the procuring entity (PE) seeking clarifications on the 27 November 2009. The PE was requested to clarify how old the refrigerator was, whether its warranty has expired, what their intentions was about the current refrigerator to provide evidence of failure by the supplier to fix the refrigerator and to explain why the PE letter reached the MTC Secretariat on 24 November 2009 when it is dated 9 November 2009.

The OP responded three months later on 23 February 2010 indicating the refrigerator was five years old, with a one year warranty, that it shall be boarded and written-off. Further, OP indicated they had attached an explanatory letter from the suppliers of the refrigerator in question who had been servicing it. However, the supplies division says: “This has not been provided to the Board and the MTC also does not have a copy.”

Interestingly, the clauses 18, 19 and 20 referred to in the Green Book have got nothing to do with the purchase of kitchen items. Clause 18 refers to the Rate of Subsistence Allowance outside Botswana; clause 19 refers to Hospitality allowance when payable and rates while clause 20 talks about Authority for duty travel.

While OP wants to pay company Lifestyle (PTY) LTD, Sunday Standard investigations have revealed that no such company exists. The company that supplies government with such kitchen supplies is Life Style Appliances who have since denied that any of their refrigerators fetch more than P40, 000.

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