Tender wars: Ministry of Lands in conundrum

SHARE   |   Wednesday, 20 March 2019   |   By Ricardo Kanono
Water pipes being installed Water pipes being installed

Pressure continues to mount on the Ministry of Lands Management, Sanitation and Water Resources to justify some of the decisions they have taken in awarding or refusing to grant some multi-million Pula tenders to deserving entities.

This week Project Management Officers (PMOs) were again summoned by the leadership and ordered to speedily facilitate the re-awarding of the P1.5 billion Maun Water Reticulation project to the second bidder Zhengtai Group Botswana.

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The PMOs are said to have informed the leadership that the decision can only be taken by the Permanent Secretary who is said to be outside the country.

“Our main worry is that the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) has requested that it be furnished with valid reasons for canceling the project award and if it is for security reasons we had to forward such to them but we have failed to do so,” revealed a highly placed source within the ministry.

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Another concern for the PMOs is that the difference between the first bidder China Jiansu and Zhengtai Group is P300 million, which they argue, doesn’t make economic sense for the ministry and government.

China Jiangsu International had won the tender to the value of P1.5 billion with Zhengtai Group coming second with a quote of P1.8 billion. The tender is for the design and building of a water distribution network, sanitation reticulation, telemetry and scads and associated works in Maun.

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DCEC enters the fray

The corruption busting agency, Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), is said to have entered the fray and is now investigating possible corruption by some senior officers at the ministry.

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One of the issues that have drawn the attention of the DCEC is why ministry officials and some from the office of the President are insisting on awarding the tender to a contractor which is P300 m more costly for Government.

Recently PPADB acting Executive chairperson Elijah Motshedi thrashed the communiqué that was circulated in which government departments were warned not to engage with China Jiangsu International Botswana.

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He said that PPADB is the only one which has the authority to remove the specific contractor or any other blacklisted company from their register.

He said what was done was not in line with normal procedure which dictates that where a procurement entity suspects or confirms any wrong doing on the part of contractors they were to submit information to the board. The investigations were then to be carried out by the Suspension and Delisting Committee of PPADB.

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The ministry is involved in another multi-million Pula tender in which senior government officials want to disregard the recommendation of the consultant.

The project is P1.3 billion Masama/Mmamashia pipeline in which Bergstan Consulting Engineers in consultation with Ministry of Lands and Water Resources PMOs concluded the technical evaluation of the project.

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The government appointed consultant Bergstan evaluated the 23 tender bids which were validated by PMO by December 2018. Among the recommended companies were WBHO, Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC) and China Jiangsu/Unik Joint Venture.

The PMO were ready to submit to PPADB to open the financials when they were called to the Office of the President where they were instructed to review the technical evaluation as the three companies posed security threat to the country.

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“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.

PMOs are responsible for implementing infrastructure projects in the water industry and are the procuring entity for the ministry.

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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 government officials are allegedly favoring another Chinese company (name known to this publication) for the project.

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.

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