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I’m neither surprised nor shocked by the Masama/Mmamashia water project conundrum

SHARE   |   Sunday, 18 August 2019   |   By Adam Phetlhe
I’m neither surprised nor shocked by the Masama/Mmamashia water project conundrum

I always ask myself why it is impossible to complete government multi-billion Pula projects and others without a drama of some sort. And funds for these projects would in most cases have been secured and authorised by parliament. As somebody who doesn’t know project management and how it is achieved, I take it that those who are competent to do so should be fully answerable with consequences to the failures of such projects. Drama begins, it would appear, as soon as projects are conceptualised and funds are released to the responsible project management teams to implement them. The water problem currently facing the southern part of the country according to those who know, has been known by government for so long and nothing suggests for now and for what is in the public domain that the situation will improve anytime soon. In the interim, untold suffering occasioned by water shortage will continue to hit Batswana in their daily lives.

Before dealing with the subject matter, allow me to digress a bit. Government is stuck with the Morupule B power station that was budgeted for over P 10 billion yet the power station, let alone to be commissioned, is fraught with so many problems and challenges which on the cost, importance to the economy amongst others, would have expectedly been to the bare minimum. It will be grossly unfair to suggest that a project as huge and complex as Morupule B wouldn’t face some construction and other technical challenges. But with requisite skills complemented by prudent project management and proper equipment, that project shouldn’t be where it is. As an ordinary Motswana, I expected the power station to have been completed in time and within budget and fully operational. As fate would have it, the power station is struggling to deliver electrical power to Batswana because of suspected poor workmanship and second class equipment. Corruption cannot be discounted. As I write, it is suggested that the initial budget has sky rocketed yet the nation is not guaranteed of efficient and reliable power supply. As one would suspect, no consequent management has been effected on all those whose task was to deliver Morupule B. At best, they have been removed from their positions and probably redeployed elsewhere.

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The Masama/Mmamashia conundrum emerged last week in parliament when Members of Parliament from across the political divide refused to authorise about P 900 m for a 100 km pipeline between Masama water fields and Mmamashia to be completed in order to ease water scarcity in the southern Botswana. The story of Masama/ Mmamashia pipeline on one hand and the North South Water Carrier (NSWC) 1 and 2 on the other is a complex one to understand and I do not intent to go into its details lest I am further confused. It is reported however that the Masama/Mmamashia water project came into being because the NSWC project is under litigation. As is common in many if not all government projects, the litigation would come about as a result of tender irregularities occasioned in some large measure, by the corrupt conduct through which the tender would have been awarded with the other tenderers questioning the procedural and other related aspects of those awarded the tender. Day in and day out, courts are seized with tender related matters. With the tender processes and procedures as clear as day light is, Batswana are stuck with the consequences of poorly awarded tenders as would likely be the case in the NSWC and the Masama/Mmamashia water projects.

Given that the water situation in the southern Botswana is so dire, one would have expected government to have taken this situation very seriously as a matter of absolute priority. As it has emerged, the motion to authorise P 900 m (which was originally and reportedly some P 750 m or so), was only brought to parliament in the last two days of its proceedings. Instead, government brought in less important 16 Bills which were rushed as always. Why was the water problem brought in so late? The answer is not hard to find: it was meant to be quickly rushed and approved under the cover of emergency without much debate. A reasonable doctor would quickly attend to a patient with life threatening head injuries than the one complaining about an injured finger.

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Having bungled the water situation, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party issues a statement which says the MPs who rejected the authorisation of the P 900 m Masama/Mmamashia funds have caused untold suffering to Batswana who face serious water shortage. This is absurd and materially misleading to say the least. The BDP must not be reminded that it is a party in power with a healthy majority in parliament capable to pass any motion or Bill in parliament as it has always done so. For it to turn around to blame the opposition when its own MPs also rejected it, pretty sums its incompetence. It is reasonable to suggest that had the P 900 m motion passed, it would have been a strong election campaign issue. Now that the opposition will most certainly use the water issue as a campaign tool to the detriment of the BDP, the BDP is crying foul by barking at the wrong tree.

With the above in mind, I am certainly neither surprised nor shocked about the bungling of the water situation in this country because government has always been aware of it. Like all other government projects, multi-billion Pula or not that have failed to be managed and delivered in time and within budget, the Masama/Mmamashia water project is by no means, not an exception. It may very be the case of too many cooks spoiling the broth where, as it appears to be the case in the subject matter, finger pointing has taken the centre stage. No one is taking the responsibility of failing to supply Batswana with water yet close to P 2 billion was authorised to do so. They say the more things change, the more they stay the same. I have watched a similar movie before and this one is just but one of those. I am prepared to be persuaded otherwise. Judge for Yourself!

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