Former Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services Prince Maele has vehemently denied any involvement in the tender fiasco between his former ministry and China Jiangsu International Botswana (Pty) Ltd.
In an interview with this publication, Maele said the tender was awarded when he was no longer a cabinet minister.
“Even if I was there, ministers don’t have any influence on the awarding of tenders nor do they have any knowledge on the adjudication and process of the tender committee,” he said.
Sources within the security cluster have revealed that the Ministry of Lands Management, Water and Sanitation Services cancelled the P1.7 billion Maun Water Reticulation Project after it was discovered that a former cabinet minister was to pocket P30 million bribes for the tender.
Maele is alleged to have met with China Jiangsu International Botswana (Pty) Ltd Managing Director, Cui Wanglin, where a deal was struck to help him in his campaign should the company be awarded the multibillion tender.
Maele, who was included in Cabinet by President Mokgweetsi Masisi when he assumed office, rubbished the allegations; saying that though he knew about the project, the tender was awarded way after he had left office.
“If these guys are saying I was going to pocket P30 million why didn’t they wait for me to be given the money and then arrest me,” he said with an angry voice.
He said that there is an open agenda to try and tarnish his name which started before the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) primary elections that he won.
“This war won’t end well for some people and wonder what they are trying to achieve,” he warned.
During his tenure as minister, Maele drew attention of the corruption bursting agency, Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) after P50,000 was found hidden in a dustbin in one of the his houses in Block 6 .
Highly placed sources within the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation have revealed that another Chinese company Zhengtai Group Botswana is preferred for the Maun Water reticulation project.
The company is currently doing the Mmamashia-Kanye pipelines.
The Ministry recently instructed the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) to cancel the tender it had awarded to China Jiangsu International Botswana after they allegedly uncovered the illegal deal between the China Jiangsu boss and a former cabinet minister.
The tender was awarded to China Jiangsu in October but PPADB after one month of cooling off took time to do give the award letter. This prompted Monthe & Marumo Attorneys, acting for China Jiangsu to write to PPADB, seeking clarity.
“... But our client has to date not received a letter of award or written communication of contract award from the procuring entity since the award of the tender. Notwithstanding various enquiries undertaken by our client with the Procuring Entity, the latter has not provided a reason valid or otherwise as to why our client has not been issued with a letter of award and provided a contract to be signed by our client in order to commence the purpose of the tender,” reads the letter dated 14 January 2019.
In response, PPADB acknowledged the receipt of the letter from China Jiangsu and promised to revert.
A few days later they informed the Chinese company that they have received some submission from the ministry regarding the tender though they didn’t divulge the information; it was an instruction to cancel the awarding of the tender to the company.
Though the company has been blacklisted, it has been awarded a P270 million tender for the construction of Botswana Police Forensic Laboratory at the old BPS College in Gaborone.
Recently the company together with Zhong Gan Engineering and Construction (Pty) Ltd and Unik Construction Engineering (Pty) Ltd Joint Venture were awarded the tender for the design, build and transfer of three interchanges.
The project, which is estimated to cost 44.72 million U.S. Dollars, is part of the Botswana Integrated Transport Project (BITP) that is funded by the government of Botswana in conjunction with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) to the tune of 385.2 million U.S. Dollars.
The three interchanges along KT Motsete Drive thus the Western Bypass at Kgale Circle, Rainbow Circle and BTV Circle, similar to the interchange in Francistown, Botswana's second largest city, will contribute towards improved traffic flow in greater Gaborone.
Interestingly after the signing off ceremony between the Chinese firms and Ministry of Transport and Communications officials, the Ministry of Mineral, Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security’s PS Cornelius Dekop warned his departments not do business with China Jiangsu.
“I have been advised to inform you not to engage the above mentioned company in any of your organisation’s activities or projects as they have been found to have been involved in massive corrupt practices,” reads the letter dated 13 February 2019.
The organisations falling under the ministry include Debswana Diamond Company, Okavango Diamond Company, Diamond Trading Company, Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority, Morupule Coal Mine, Botswana Power Corporation and Botswana Oil Limited.
These developments come at a time when Botswana has moved to improve its relations with China which had deteriorated under President Ian Khama after accusing them of short-changing the country through shoddy workmanship and promotion of corrupt tendencies due to their habit of bribing government officials.
Failed projects that they were involved in include the Palapye Glass Project and recent media reports point to heavy corruption that Chinese companies were involved in in the development of Morupule B project.