Senior Government officials find themselves played between contesting Chinese interests in the big money spinning construction industry. Emerging as the common ground for cancelling some contracts is a claim of ‘security risk’; an excuse PPADB is not buying.
The Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services top officials continue to take centre stage over tender controversies for projects valued at Billions of Pula.
The ministry recently cancelled a tender for the design and building of a water distribution network, sanitation reticulation, telemetry and scads and associated works in Maun awarded to China Jiangsu International Botswana.
In the latest development an investigation by this publication has unearthed information that Project Management Officers (PMO) for the ministry were summoned by the Permanent Secretary to the Office of the President Carter Morupisi and responsible Minister Kefentse Mzwinila two weeks ago regarding a technical evaluation undertaken by the consultant Bergstan Consulting Engineers for the P1.3 billion Masama/Mmamashia pipeline.
The tender being evaluated is labeled contract 01.
After the appointed consultant Bergstan evaluated the 23 tender bids and validated by PMO by December 2018, they were ready to hand them over to Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) when they were stopped on their heels.
The technical evaluation, which this publication got glimpse of, had listed WBHO, Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC) and China Jiangsu/ Unik Joint Venture among the top three. The three were supposed to go for financial evaluation.
“We were instructed to re-do the technical evaluation as PMO when they knew we didn’t have the capacity to do that. The reason they don’t want Bergstan is because they would not be bulldozed by people without technical know-how and with us it will be easy to bulldoze us,” revealed a highly placed source.
Sources within the Government Enclave have revealed that the three companies are not favoured by some technocrats within government as they have in the past refused to grease palms of some officials after winning tenders.
PMOs are responsible for implementing infrastructure projects in the water industry and are the procuring entity for the ministry.
One of the reasons advanced to the PMOs to disqualify the three companies was allegedly that they posed a security risk. PPADB is said to have dismissed such grounds. Senior officials are said to be favoring another Chinese company (name known to this publication) which is not state owned.
PPADB is said to have explicitly asked what the meaning of ‘security risk’ was. Three weeks later they have not been furnished with reasons.
Contacted for a comment, Minister Mzwinila denied being involved in the project, saying perhaps his Permanent Secretary might be the one with information about it.
“I don’t know anything about the status of the project now and I am not involved in procurement,” he responded, adding that he has never instructed anyone to revise the technical evaluation. Efforts to get comment from Morupisi were futile as his mobile phone rang unanswered.
The entire project NSC 2.2 from Palapye to Mmamashia Treatment Plant (270km’s) has four contracts; contracts 01-04.
Masama to Mmamashia pipeline will cost P1.3 billion, Mahalapye to Masama P1.1 billion, and Palapye to Mahalapye 1.3 billion.
The last one is associated feeder tanks and break pressure tanks which will cost P800 million.
NSC will bring 120 mega liters of water per day down the pipeline with 110 mega liters per day reaching Mmamashia Water Treatment Plant Works. The other 10 mega liters will remain at Mahalapye to supply Tswapong South villages.
The 110 mega liters per day will ensure water security within the eastern corridor all the way to Sekhutlhane.
In 2017 Ministry of Lands Management, Water and Sanitation unbundled the multi billon project into four packages.
Moyo Guma vindicated
During the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in 2017 the vocal Member of Parliament Samson Moyo Guma appealed to the Auditor General to look closely into the North-South Carrier II Project as he had on good authority that there was political interference hindering the project. Guma told the then Permanent Secretary in the ministry Thato Raphaka and his team then that they too were aware of the alleged interference in the Ministerial Tender Committee by authorities.