Botswana’s biggest water project Emergency Water Security and Efficiency Project ((WSRP) which has been funded by the World Bank by a $145.5 million loan and meant to address water crisis by 2021 is turning into just a dream.
The multibillion project is said to have opened flood gates for corruption from senior government officials and some cabinet ministers who have now stalled the progress thus denying the nation access to clean water especially in the southern and North West part of the country.
World Bank is said to be worried at the slow pace of implementing the project which is embroiled in legal tussle between government and some multi-national companies over tender irregularities.
The great concern is the North South Carrier (NSC) II which some officials of World Bank have labeled as being embroiled in dirty water politics involving even members of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
MLWS and WUC flouting World Bank’s Guidelines on Preventing and Combating Fraud and Corruption in Projects
Ministry of Land Management, Water & Sanitation Services (MLWS) and Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) who are the implementers of the project are said to be flouting World Bank’s new Procurement Framework (NPF).
Some Project Management Officers have raised a red flag that WUC want to violate loan guidelines which are meant to combat fraud and corruption and has since raised the issue to the World Bank officials.
One of the sections flouted is 9 (a) i which stipulates that the borrower must adopt appropriate fiduciary and administrative practices and institutional arrangements to ensure that the proceeds of the Loan are used only for the purpose of which the loan was granted.
Recently WUC board proposed the change of scope of NSC II project by resuscitating the construction of the 100 kilometer pipeline which was rejected by cabinet last year. The board against the advice of the Project Management Officers wants the P400 million meant for Lobatse Water Master Plan which is part of the loan from World Bank.
The PMO are allegedly to have pleaded with World Bank officials to address the issues as it has the potential to leave most Batswana without access to safe drinking water.
Maun Water Supply and Sanitation Project
This is one of the projects that have been funded by World Bank and according to sources within MLWS it could have long been completed.
Currently there is susceptible to the quality of drinking water in Maun as it is brownish in color and has after taste, a situation that the project was going to address.
Though Chinese company, China Jiangsu International Botswana won the tender at the tune of P1.5 billion in October 2018 but MLWS dragged their feet in providing them with letter of award or written confirmation of contract of award.
Through their lawyers Montlhe Marumo & Co wrote a letter to PPADB requesting that China Jiangsu be provided with a contract to sign and commerce work.
Early this year DIS entered the fray and advised MLWS to cancel the tender warning that the intelligence they have gathered suggest that the company has been involved in activities that border on the threat of national security.
In a shocking move to the PMO, the tender was awarded to Zhentai Group at the tune of P1.8 billion though the matter was still before the courts of law.
The tender has since been interdicted until the matter is resolved thus further putting the lives of North West in danger.
The DIS are said to have failed to provide the company with the information as instructed by the court on what national security threat they are posing.
Last week DIS officials are said to have went to MLWS and collected consultancy tender documents and evaluation reported which was submitted in 2014.
The delay in the project is going to affect 175,631 in the North West district that won’t have access to safe drinking water.
The biggest project under WSRP is NSC which was meant to address acute water shortage in the Southern part of Botswana.
NSC II pipeline was supposed to bring 120 mega litres of water per day down the pipeline with 110 mega litres per day reaching Mmamashia Water Treatment Plant Works.
The Mmamashia West and East wells are supposed to augment the water from the dams in the north during the dry season. This is now just a pipe dream the project is now being fought before the courts will Batswana are in desperate need of potable water.
The project has been divided into four components and all of them are before the court which many within the industry are saying is because of political interference.
Early this year PMO were allegedly instructed by the Office of the President to suspend the awarding of the P1.3 billion Masama/Mmamashia pipeline project as the three shortlisted listed were not favored.
Corruption in the water and sanitation sector
Transparency International in their 2018 report on the Impact of corruption in the water and sanitation sector have raised a concern that it has generated water poverty by reducing the quality and availability of services, with disproportionate and adverse effects on the poor and marginalized.
“The incentives for corruption in the water sector are high: water sector institutions are natural monopolies responsible for projects with high initial capital and maintenance costs, and which are managed by officials with large amounts of discretionary power,” reads the report.
The 2018 report highlights that in countries where water resources are becoming scarce, water corruption will likely become an increasingly serious problem.
The report notes that nine of the 10 countries with growing markets for private water and sanitation investments experience "high risks of corruption."
The World Bank estimates that, globally, between 20% to 40% of public investment meant for the water sector is lost to corruption.
If not contained, corruption within the water sector including Botswana can lead to failure to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of people without access to safe drinking water.
Efforts to get comment from Oarabile Minky Matebejane, a representative of World Bank in Botswana were futile as she didn’t respond to the questionnaire sent to her.