Saturday, February 24, 2024

Owens Cornings comes back to haunt Mogae

Former President Festus Mogae’s alleged conflict of interest in Owens Cornings-the company that supplied pipes for the North-South Carrier Water Scheme has come back to haunt him.

Water Utilities Corporation(WUC)confirmed this week that it was saddled with a bill running into hundreds of millions of Pula as it seeks to replace the problematic Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP)pipes that were supplied by Owens Corning.

WUC Chief Executive Officer, Metla Masire, told The Sunday Standard this week they have contracted Landmark Joint Venture to replace the GRP pipes with steel pipes.

Masire says WUC will spend more than P440 million to replace the short lived GRP pipes with steel pipes which have a longer lifespan.

“This is a project to replace 23 kilometres of pipeline. Our current pipes cannot be repaired; they used to be repaired only at the time when we were using GRP pipes which were supplied by Ownens Cornings. The current ones are from Palapye. They are supplied by a different supplier now. We believe that these ones are going to last longer than the previous ones. GRP pipes are made of fibre glass.  Compared to steel pipes, GRP pipes cannot handle (water) pressure,” he said.

He said the P440 million will only go towards installing pipes that will cover a distance of 23 kilometres and this does not include other costs such as installing pumping stations, water treatment plants, storage and balancing reservoirs, measurement and control systems.

“The (current) product is very expensive. Their (pipes) life span is more than 50 years on condition” that they are taken care of. 

He added that the GRP pipes supplied by Owens Cornings lasted for between 20 to 25 years.  “We can’t use pipes that were supplied by Owens anymore, they can’t handle the pressure,” said Masire.

Reports indicate during the commissioning of the North South Carrier Water Scheme numerous, pipe bursts were experienced, especially along the GRP section of the pipeline.

The GRP section of the pipeline has occasionally experienced some pipe bursts which have been repaired by the contractor as provided for in the fifteen year guarantee agreement.

According to media reports, pipes for the North South Carrier Water Scheme were supplied by an American company called Owens Corning Pipes Botswana.

At the time, Mogae had shares in a local company called Motswedi which benefitted from a soft loan from Owens Corning which at the time was cash-strapped.

The Botswana Development Corporation, a parastatal organisation which was a shareholder in Owens Corning, injected money into Owens Corning to keep it afloat.

WUC announced last week that it intends to shut down the North South Carrier scheme for major upgrade works that entail replacement of old Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP) pipes with Steel pipes.

The upgrade work will be done in phases during the year, starting with phase which is scheduled as follows; starts from 28 January to 14 February.

In total there will be five shutdown phases, to minimise the impact on water supply to Greater Gaborone.  The closure may affect water supply to the Greater Gaborone areas, hence some areas might experience low water pressure to no water supply.

The corporation has a detailed contingency plan to ensure minimal water disruption to the public.

Masire was confident there will not be shortage of water around Gaborone and its environs.

“We have put in mitigation; there is Gaborone dam and Bokaa dam to cushion the impact, for now we don’t anticipate any significant impact, we have water in the Gaborone dam. We are comfortable that we put in contingency measures,” he said.


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