As the controversial Morupule B project worth P11 billion draws closer to its unexpected completion, the government and Chinese contractor developing the project are already sniping at one another over who should take the blame for the delay of the project and costs overruns.
The government this week revealed that while it is pointing fingers at the China National Electric Equipment Corporation (CNEEC) for the costs incurred due to the delay in delivering the project, the contractor is countering such claims.
Briefing journalists on Thursday, Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources (MMEWR) Kitso Mokaila said that “they (contractor) have claims against us, we have claims against them.” Mokaila confirmed reports that the two parties are likely to take the matter to court for redress.
Conceding that a protracted legal battle should be expected, Mokaila also confirmed reports that they have roped in a leading global legal firm to seek recourse for possible breaches in the Engineering, Procurement and Construction contract it signed (CNEEC) in November 2008.
Responding to questions from reporters who sought to know how much government had incurred in expenses associated with the delay and who should be held accountable, Mokaila said only after the completion of the project would he be in a position to “to quantify that.”
“We are nearing the completion of the project. The priority for now is that we want to get power first; on both sides there are damages. Maybe we are going to have a protracted legal battle; that is the government and the contractor. But right now let’s first fix the project,” he said.
Conceding further that the new plant “has teething problems,” Mokaila said “Our grand plan is that we want the plant to work. With maintenance, the plant can last us for 25 to 30 years.” “We know that we have a plant. Mechanical things do fail; it’s a reality we have to contend with, we have technical advisors who are advising us on the delivery of the project,” he said.
For his part, Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) Jacob Raleru revealed that initially four bidders, one contractor from Europe and the other one from India had shown interest in the project but later dropped out of the race. He said they were left with two contractors and they ended up with the current contractor.
According to Raleru, CNEEC was the last resorts because BPC’s contract with South African power utility, Eskom was running out.
“We had not time to go back to the market because it was going to take us another four years to bid and our contract with Eskom was running out,” he said.
Raleru assured the general public that load shedding will be a thing of the past end of this month adding that unit one, two and three have been completed and handed over to the corporation.
“With the three units, will be able to meet the demand. Unit two experienced some technical problems but we hope it will be sorted out very soon,” he said. Raleru also revealed that when they signed the contract the agreement was that the contractor would “run the plant for a period of two years and transfer skills to BPC employees.”