April 11 2010: The Executive Chairman of the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB), Armando Lionjanga, has published what amounts to a wake up call and a last warning to contractors who continue to rip and bleed Government of millions of Pula through their unscrupulous conduct of not observing and honouring their contractual obligations with Government.
PPADB says, henceforth, they will delist those companies that fail to honour their obligations.
We hope that this is not mere talk coming from PPADB.
In fact, this is long overdue.
Treating companies with kid gloves even as they violate, defy and defile Government cannot be classified as empowerment.
Batswana companies should be encouraged to take their obligations seriously so that they can be able to compete in the international market.
It is the culture of cushioning these citizen companies from the rigours of reality, which has ensured that even as Botswana had a multi-billion Pula construction industry, as a country we are still to produce a world class construction company that is able to take head on the multi-nationals that have descended here as they are lured by lucrative government contracts in the construction and heavy engineering industry.
Unfinished structures, left behind by citizen contractors are commonplace.
They are an eye sore with which the Government has grappled for decades.
Reality is such that time has come for Government to act. And for that, we are thankful and indebted to PPADB for their public statement.
There is a cumulative effect brought about by defaulting contractors.
First and foremost is that they delay Government projects.
Secondly, they run away with Government money.
Thirdly, they spread this culture of irresponsibility among the few that otherwise would want to honour their obligations with Government.
And lastly, Government has no alternative but to always find replacement to finish the public projects that are abandoned half way through.
The upshot of it is that government finds itself saddled with delayed projects and cost overruns.
We have in the past called on Government to use her multi-billion Pula development procurement budget to not only empower citizen companies but to also build local capacity as a way of ensuring that Batswana participate in the economy of their country.
We still stand by that assertion.
What is important though is to hastily add and also emphasise the fact that citizenship alone can never be enough for people or companies to win Government contracts.
Companies should be given jobs only when it is clear that Government gets value in return.
Thus, we wholly support Mr. Lionjanga when he says that “PPAD Act does not condone mediocre performers or habitual defaultetrs.”
In his Announcement Mr. Lionjanga goes further to state that the philosophy of the Act is to nurture, nourish and promote contractor discipline and professionalism.
Unfortunately, what we have seen many of the citizen companies doing over the years is no where near professionalism.
Stories abound of Government projects that have been abandoned midway through or, in some worst cases, even before they were started, even as contractors would have received what in their parlance is popularly known as mobilization fees.
We call on Government, especially the Ministry of Finance and that of Works to steadfastly support PPADB in its endeavour to clean and weed the hooligans that only give citizen companies a bad name.
“Finally, let the word go forth now the “easy days” of when “unscrupulous contractors” got away “with murder” through Government Contracts are over,” says Mr. Lionjanga.
We cannot agree with PPADB more.
Time has come.
For far too long Botswana Government has subsidized mediocrity under the guise of citizen economic empowerment.
As a nation, we are going through difficult economic times. And money that is desperately needed to uplift poor Batswana can no longer be allowed to line the pockets of a few hooligans whose sense of entitlement is so strong as to eclipse their sense of obligation to the nation.
For that reason we find ourselves wholly behind PPADB to delist offending companies and, where possible, to blacklist them and their promoters from doing business with Government in the future.