Government will not be intimidated by legal threats from contrators who fail to deliver projects on schedule, where termination remains the only reasonable option towards achieving completion of our projects such as the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSKIA). The stern warning was sounded by President Ian Khama and Minister of Infrastructure, Science and Technology Nonofho Molefhi on Fiday at the re-commissioning of the SSKIA terminal building on Friday, after a five year wait.
Challenges encountered in the SSKIA terminal building and related expansion works project serve as a lesson to Batswana; that the choice and management of contractors engaged in major projects is critical, Khama said. The airport expansion and refurbishment project was initially planned for completion in 2010. “A major challenge that added to the impediment of timely delivery that is worth mentioning is poor construction management,” he said. Clearly not so impressed Khama further said;“Today as we re-commission this terminal building and associated works , we must pause, and think of the consequences of the delays that emanated from this project”.
The terminal building project was initially undertaken by Synohydro Botswana at the tune of P550 million and commenced in 2008, targeting anticipated traffic for the 2010 Soccer World cup that was hosted by South Africa. According to the Minister of Infrastructure Science and Technology Nonofho Molefhi, they had a fallout with the contractor as they came to the realisation that the level of the contractor’s commitment started to decline as he failed to meet several project deadlines. The unforeseen delays would later lead to a deadlock and the project eventually not making it in time to be used for the Soccer World Cup.
Though government cut ties and engaged another contractor, Molefhi revealed that the first contractor has since taken the government of Botswana to the International Chamber of Commerce Arbitral Tribunal regarding the termination of his contract. “We have been in and out of legal wrangles with the initial contractor following her inability to complete this project. We still have other legal matters pending before the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Arbitral Tribunal as we speak,” said Molefhi.
Reiterating Khama's sentiments Molefhi said challenges that emanated from the SSKIA project served as a vital lesson to his ministry. He however made it clear that they stand convinced that they terminated the first contractor’s contract in public interest. “We are also hopeful that our decision to terminate for non-performance is a good lesson to others who may be having intentions to take short cuts in the delivery of government projects,” Molefhi warned.
The Minister further warned that government would no longer stand helplessly at the mercy of consultants and contractors as they take their time to complete national projects while the nation waits in despair. “We shall not be intimidated by legal threats where we believe termination remains the only reasonable option towards achieving completion of our projects such as the SSKIA,” he said.
Completion contract for the SSKIA was then awarded to Stefanutti Stocks at a cost of P142 568 702.04 on July 14, 2014. According to Molefhi the contractor did a satisfactory job and met the quality standards that his ministry had required for in the initial tender. The SSKIA was constructed in two phases. Phase I was handed in May 2010. Phase II was not 100 per cent complete at termination of contract in July 2012.
Khama announced that it is planned that the re-commissioned terminal building will be further expanded in the short term for purposes of making it more functional and accommodate increased passenger growth. He also said with regard to the expected business growth at SSKIA, the recently developed SSKIA Land Use Master Plan has projected an increase with respect to passenger traffic of approximately 1.5 million passengers in the year 2025. According to Khama consequently with the land use master plan, the intention is to transform the airport into a vibrant commercial centre thus turning it into an “Airport City”. If well planned he says the airport will become a centre of urban activity which can translate into large numbers of people , public and private transport, commercial activity and offices far removed from the Gaborone Metropolitan Centre.