Saturday, July 11, 2020

When State-Owned Companies collude….

BY VICTOR BAATWENG

The Auditor General’s office came very close to calling a multi-million Pula deal between two state owned entities ÔÇô Botswana Couriers and Central Medical Stores a “collusion”.

In her annual audit of accounts and records of the CMS, Auditor General – Pulane Letebele expressed concerns on what she calls “inconsistency” in the procurement services at the Central Medical Stores (CMS).

Through the audit Pulane discovered that Botswana Couriers has been favoured over the years since the signing of a multi-million supplies deal with CMS back on 29th April 2014.

Making comments on the audit of accounts and records the Auditor General ÔÇô without mentioning the contractor’s name (Botswana Couriers), Pulane said that it was “generous” of CMS to award a contract extension to Botswana Couriers in 2017 and subsequently in February 2019.

“I consider this period extension without invitation for fresh tender rather generous, and not consistent with principle of fairness in the procurement of services”, Letebele said.

The cash strapped Botswana Couriers was engaged by CMS for the provision of warehousing, and distribution of drugs, dressing and vaccines at a contract sum of P174 324 187 in 2014. The Auditor General’s office has since discovered that after the completion of the initial contract in April 2017, Botswana Couriers was given  two further extensions in total amount of P60 059 235 ending July 2018.

“The contractor was given another extension beyond this date and subsequently awarded a 5 year contract commencing February 2019, having been given extension of close to 22 months”, reads part of Letebele is side notes accompanying the audit of accounts and records of CMS.

In August 2018 Sunday Standard reported that the multi million tender is surrounded by controversies following a decision to cancel and later re-advertise it. Investigations at the time showed that the tender was first advertised in July 2017 and as part of the prerequisites bidding companies were required to have an ISO 9001 certification because the Central Medical Stores is ISO certified. Bids were submitted and technical proposals were opened.

Botswana Couriers however failed the qualification stage because it is not ISO certified and only one company Imperial Health Sciences qualified. Instead of awarding the tender to Imperial Health Services, CMS then decided to lower its prequalification standards apparently to accommodate its preferred bidder.

Subsequently, the tender was cancelled and later re-advertised this time without the ISO 9001 certification requirement. The same companies that had submitted bids were invited to retender. The second submission was completed complete with the technical evaluation and short listing of companies that qualified to proceed to the next stage of financial bids. According to the PPADB website, the three companies that qualified were Imperial Health Services (Pty) Ltd bidder 1, Gabcon ÔÇô Raclaw Corporation JV-Bidder 2 and Botswana Couriers and Logistics as Bidder 5.

Meanwhile the Auditor General has also made another shocking revelation that part of the P20000 that was advanced to Botswana Couriers by the government for the procurement of furniture, equipment and other accessories was diverted for private use.

“The supplies bought under this arrangement were not recorded in the accounting records of government while air conditioners were installed in a private Guest House in Gaborone”, reads part of Letebele’s comments.

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Sunday Standard July 5 – 11

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of July 5 - 11, 2020.