Contractor demands P17 million from KwDC

SHARE   |   Tuesday, 02 May 2017   |   By Ditiro Motlhabane
Contractor demands P17 million from KwDC

A contractor engaged for the construction of Molepolole Bus Terminus Project, Estate Construction, is suing Kweneng District Council (KwDC) demanding P17m in outstanding fees for the project. Sources indicate that Estate Construction slapped the council with the lawsuit for outstanding payment following the handing over of the project in November 2016, two years after the initial scheduled date of completion. According to sources, the contractor's liability period for the bus terminus expired in November 2016. KwDC is contesting the claim for the full amount questioning some aspects of the project, which they complain are incomplete, The Patriot on Sunday has learnt. Further, sources allege that KwDC recently paid P4 million to the contractor and tried to negotiate an out of court settlement of the dispute, without success. The construction of the bus terminus started in 2012 and was due for completion in August 2014.  Initially, the design and construction of the project was to cost P168 million but was revised to P115.6 million. The project later incurred variations amounting to P23.9 million bringing the total cost to around P139.5 million at the time of completion. Frustrated by delays in the project KwDC chairman, Jeffery Sibisibi, once criticised the project engineers – BOA Consultants – for delaying it from completion. BOA is associated with Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development Minister Tshenolo Mabeo, a  structural engineer who is also the MP for Thamaga.

Other Directors are Otshabeng Steven and Emmanuel Sedumedi. Sibisibi said major delays in the project delivery were due to mismanagement by the consultant. Estate Construction had indicated several delays by BOA to provide construction information, delay in determination of the claims and slow issuance of instructions. "The council has on several occasions written to the consultant to remind him of his contractual obligation in an endeavour to meet the 30th September 2015 completion date," said Sibisibi. KwDC Secretary Goleba Kgari confirmed this week that Estate Construction has logged a case against them, but declined to discuss the details of the dispute. "Due to legal and contractual constraints, the council is not in a position to divulge the details of the case," he said. He, however, said the bus rank is currently in use with public transport (buses and taxis) operating from the facility together with other stakeholders including the Botswana Police, Council Public Health, Bye-Law and Administration. Kgari denied that there are disputes over occupation of stalls by vendors, saying currently KwDC has offered the vendors stalls and is awaiting some of them to pay the rental deposits before occupation. He said the Council is currently following up the issue of properties damaged by construction with the contractor who is responsible for repairs. Kgari refused to reveal the total cost of construction of the facility, which he said will be determined after completion of the final account. "The account will state the actual quantities and costs associated with the project," he said.

Controversy, DCEC
The construction of the Molepolole bus rank has always attracted controversy from the onset. Corruption busters from Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) frequented the project, following allegations of cost escalation in procurement of construction material. These escalations, caused by unexplained delays in the project since commencement in 2012, resulted in variations that cost government millions of Pula. Sources said the DCEC started sniffing around when it emerged that the cost of materials for the Molepolole bus rank was extremely high compared to other bigger projects, which were built for less. One such example was the Palapye bus terminus project – supervised by Multi-Tech Consult engineers –which only cost P81m despite that it included access roads and traffic lights. The Molepolole Bus rank -designed and supervised by BOA consulting engineers – had already cost P115 m while still at 70% in mid-2015. A source said there was strong suspicion that prices were inflated and overpriced, thus pushing the costs of the project which led to delays in delivering materials as most of them were at normal prices. This attracted the attention of DCEC.
Delays also attracted the attention of Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Frans Van Der Westhuizen, who expressed doubt about the project meeting the then July deadline. The completion date was later moved to September 2015, but also failed.  Mabeo has in the past refused to comment referring any enquiry to KwDC. As the controversy unfolded, a resident engineer at KwDC was transferred to Bobonong Sub District halfway through the project, while an engineer with BOA Consulting also resigned. At the height of the controversy over projects under KwDC, among them the acquisition and partitioning on a one-stop service centre at Mafenyatlala mall and the bus terminus, the then Council Secretary Wadzha Tema was redeployed to a lower ranking office at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. In a reshuffle at Government Enclave orchestrated by Permanent Secretary to the President Carter Morupisi, Tema  was redeployed to the position of Head of Strategy and Reforms (an E2 position), a position lower than that of Council Secretary (E1 salary scale).

Mafenyatlala project
The multimillion pula e-Government project – a one stop service centre at Mafenyatlala mall – spearheaded by KwDC to improve service delivery has sparked mixed reaction from the public.  Although the partitioning, which cost around P9 million, has long been completed staff from different ministries/organizations have not yet started providing services at the centre. Only Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS) has seconded three officers to the centre on fulltime basis. Services rendered by KwDC to date are from Public Health (registration for waste collection), Revenue services from Headquarters (which encompasses payment for tenders and services to council) and Building Control services. Kgari said they are aware of concerns from the public as some feel that their expectations have not been met as the initial objective of a One-Stop-Shop was to bring all Government departments under one roof but the current position is that just two (2) departments are fully operational. "This is a challenge that we are working on to address," said Kgari.