In a strange twist, a Canadian company that was awarded a P150 million (USD 14 559 860.00) tender by Government to launch its e-Gov system under the Government Modernisation Office (GMO) has six months later not signed on the dotted line due to reasons best known to the Ministry of Transport and Communications. This is despite Government having created an impression that the job had to be completed urgently. When announcing the award of the tender by the Public Procurement Asset and Disposal Board (PPADB) on December 22, 2016 then Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Communications Elias Magosi said the project was to be implemented immediately and was to be completed in 24 months. “The Public Procurement Asset and Disposal Board (PPADB) at its meeting of the 15th December 2016 acceded to the Government Modernisation Office (GMO) request to award … tender to Imex Systems Inc. at a cost of USD 14 559 860.00 VAT inclusive. The Government of Botswana is therefore pleased to award the contract to Imex Systems Inc. The award is effective immediately and the project is required to be executed in 24 months. You will be invited to come and sign the contract after the festive holiday,” Magosi said in his award letter to the company. It will appear that something happened thereafter that made Government drag its feet. Six months later, many correspondent exchanging hands in between the parties, and heavy mobilisation costs incurred no contract has been signed.
Imex officials have been in Botswana since the start of the year to ensure that they act promptly once Government signals its readiness for contract signing. And now worried at the lack of any clear certainty over whether the contract will be signed or not the company President and CEO Damodar Arapakota has launched an urgent application with the High Court to protect their rights. “The Applicant is expending endless resources and currently spending P1 500 to P2000 per day on me alone for accommodation and food, my daily upkeep. Staff members in the Project Team in Canada who have been earmarked for jobs in Botswana have started threatening legal action against the Applicant in view of delays in commencing. The disruption to their livelihoods on account of the uncertainty is causing immeasurable damage both socio economically and financially,” argued Arapakota. The applicant further maintains that he is spending resources on rent and other basic needs in preparation of the execution of the contract, including leasing office space and homes for 20 staff members at about P240 000 (USD 20 000) per month. “If the contract is not implemented immediately, the applicant will not be able to get substantial redress at a later date in the future and cannot resuscitate the already damaged reputation that is ongoing, as a listed company abroad,” said the company in its application.
Letters and threats
Prior to taking the legal route Imex had written numerous letters and engaged Government officials verbally seeking an expedited facilitation of the signing of the contract. In his letter of February 20, 2017 to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Arapakota contended: “You will appreciate that any further delays, given that it is now mid-February, is prejudicial to Government and Imex Systems and detrimental to the project as a whole. Please note that the contract is expected to be completed within 24 months from the date of the award. A period of two months has already lapsed and no progress has been made towards the implementation of the Project. None of this delay is attributable to the conduct of IMEX Systems”. The company’s legal firm Tengo Rubadiri Attorneys had also issued statutory notice of intention to take legal action to Government which went unheeded.
Ministry attempts to cancel award
However, it has since sufficed that the Ministry had in the meantime approached the PPADB with an intention to cancel the tender award. The Board has through a letter dated April 25, 2017 confirmed that it was yet to take a decision on the matter as such the tender remained awarded to Imex Systems. The reason that Imex was previously subcontracted in the same project that failed to deliver though costing Government P111 746 125.95 was being raised as a concern and the absence of evidence that Imex had implemented a full- fledged integrated e-Gov solution of this magnitude and complexity anywhere else before. “The concern that Imex was part of the previous contract that was terminated due to non-delivery was expressed by the Board during motivation for direct appointment of Imex. This is the reason why the Board eventually called for performance reports of Imex, which GMO did not submit on the basis that they did not monitor performance of Imex since they had no contract with the latter. With regards to Imex experience in implementing a fully intergrated e-Gov solution, it can be noted that during the evaluation of the tender, the evaluation team visited Canada where they satisfied themselves about Imex experience and expertise regarding the project at hand. It is worth noting that the evaluators made the same observation of Imex not having implemented the solution in its entirety but as individual components and this was attributed to a full e-Gov suite being a relatively new product in the market. The evaluators did not raise having any doubts regarding the contractor’s capability to integrate their own solution components into a fully-fledged e-Gov solution,” writes the executive chairperson Bridget John in response ministry’s request. The Board had further noted that since the solution was a proprietary of Imex bringing a new contractor into the project was deemed to carry heavy costs as work already done was bound to go to waste. In the award Imex was given 15 percent to complete work from the previous contractor while the remaining 85 percent was for new work done. It also appears that Government failed in the award of tender to negotiate sufficient warranty cover for the project of the size and complexity involved, securing only four months cover. “The Ministry went into negotiations and agreed on this item. If the Ministry believes that the period is not favourable, the Ministry should explain why it cannot negotiate this item at contracting stage,” said John.