Members of Parliament (MPs) on Thursday reigned supreme when they rejected a supplementary budget proposal brought before parliament by Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Kenneth Matambo in order to finance the suspicious P900 million North-South Carrier II tender.
In a rare development, amid political unrest in the ruling party, a number of legislators from the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) joined ranks with the opposition benches to reject the supplementary budget. After a spirited debate, coupled with ruling party caucuses at intervals, 26 MPs voted against the supplementary, with 24 voting in favour.
The North- South Carrier II Project which was not part of the current National Development Plan 11 was conjured recently by cabinet, with the several sources claiming that the tender was tailor made for a company that would later help fund BDP’s general elections campaign. The BDP has rejected this outright in a statement released a fortnight ago. The BDP recently made it public knowledge that the party is broke and that it will raise funds in order to finance its bid to retain state power. The party has pledged to go back to its members for finances.
The tender, which was initially valued at P700 million was later altered to P900 million before being awarded to Khato Civils. It has emerged from Finance and Estimates Committee, chaired by Member of Parliament for Francistown West, Ignatius Moswaane that the project did not have a budget, and that it was not conceptualised by the ministry as per procedure.
“The project had no urgency because it was going to be covered by the NS2 (North South Carrier 2). It is alleged that the Office of the President then became the sponsor of the project then put pressure on the Permanent Secretary to embark on the project,” the committee noted in its recommendations.
According to Report on Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure from the Consolidated and Development Funds from the Finance and Estimates Committee Financial Paper No. 1 of 2019/2020, the Minister should have motivated for the inclusion of the project into the NDP 11 first through the midterm review.
The report also indicate that with the commissioning of the Pump Station 4.1 to increase the water volumes, further pumping and injections of Masama water into NSC1 will have not been possible. What came out clearly was that, with Pump Station 4.1 in action, Masama would need a separate pipeline if it is to be pumped, the committee resolved. The report also rebuffs the involvement of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Service (DIS) in projects’ and contractors. It indicates that the DIS issued directives to the Ministry which led to the cancellation of one of the NSC11 tenders.
“What the Ministry out to have done was to have given the contractor an opportunity to advance its justification to proceed with the works instead of cancelling the contract immediately,” said the report. The committee is of the view that the NSC 11 projects would have been at an advanced stage had it not been for the involvement of DIS. According to Moswaane’s report Water Utilities Corporation Management Tender Committee had flaunted the Procurement procedures by evaluating and awarding a tender without first securing the project funding.
“The procedure is that you first secure the budget because the process of tendering is expensive and one should not incur such costs or commit government without assurance that the project will proceed or be funded,’’ the report said. The WUC Management Tender Committee evaluated the tender in June 2018, and Khato Civils was deemed the lowest cost priced amongst the 3 bidders which had proceeded to this stage at a contract price of P781 555, 356. 90.
This price was above the initial project budget of P750 000 000 by P31, 555, 356.90 (4.2%). The Management tender Committee awarded the tender to Khato Civils pending contracting. “This process was procedural as the Presidential Directive was also clear in who should undertake the pre- tender and pre- contracting process. It has not been adequately explained why the Ministry needs P900 000 000 for the project that was awarded at an escalated value of P781 555, 356. (From an original budget project of P 750 000 000)”.
On awarding the tender to Khato Civils, the bidder was further advised of the condition of the award as relating to the fixed prices and non-escalation of costs as per the approved bid. Cabinet members were reportedly divided over the awarding of the project but they were overruled and the matter was put to bed by authorising the award of the tender to Khato Civils at P900 million.
Moswaane on Thursday told parliament that he was aware, and that he had information indicating that the tender had already been awarded. This was despite the fact that Minister of Finance and Economic Management, Kenneth Matambo claimed that the tender was yet to be awarded, according to his knowledge. The awarding of the tender is also linked with the departure of Chief Executive Officer (CEO), of WUC, Mmetla Masire weeks ago after he reportedly disapproved the purchasing of the pipes directly from China.
Masire was reportedly adamant that the pipes can be sourced readily available in Botswana and South Africa, instead of being procured in China, sources said. It is said that procurement of pipes went on even though the budget was not approved by the ministry because other stakeholders we not on board when the decision was made. Sources indicate that some funds which were allocated to refurbish Lobatse Water Reticulation Infrastructure were diverted to seal the deal between the Ministry and Khato Civils.
The tender entails refurbishing the North South Carrier 1 (NSC-1) Pump Stations PS 1.1 (Tender WUC013 of 2017) and PS 2.1(Tender WUC013 of 2017) to enhance efficiency. The main objective is to upgrade and refurbish the Pump stations in order to provide required water outputs to BPT1A1 and BPT2A1, respectively. This scope of works cover general requirements for assessment, supply, delivery and installation of Mechanical, Civil, Electrical, Control Equipment, Instrumentation Equipment, Actuators, Associated Accessories, and documentation (drawings and manuals).
Khato Civils / NTR Technology Holdings JV (KCNTRJV) having demonstrated in their tender proposals that they have the technical, financial and managerial skills to complete the Contracts successfully was appointed on an EPC basis by the Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) of Botswana on 16 February 2018 for the refurbishment of Pump Stations PS1.1 and PS2.1 located on the North- South Carrier 1 pipeline. The Contracts valued at BWP 101, 767,567. 33 and BWP 93, 451, 640. 26 are running simultaneous and must be completed within 15 months ending on 12th August 2019.
Pump station PS1.1 is situated at Letsibogo dam, while Pump Station PS2.1 is situated approximately 32.6km downstream from Letsibogo dam, at Moralane, together with Break Pressure Tank 1 (BPT1A1). Both pump stations are currently running with Constant Speed Drive Pumps. One of the activities embedded in the upgrade and refurbishment of the two pump stations is to change from Constant Speed Drive Pumps (Roto- Starter) to Variable Speed Drive (VSD) Pumps. For correct and accurate VSD pump selection, good understanding of the condition of the current NSC-1 pipeline system, working in synergy with the two pump stations is required.
This project covers all equipment in the Pump Stations, including modification of the suction and delivery pipe work and construction of a building to house Variable Speed drive units. The second requirement is for the Scheme SCADA upgrade, engineering and configuration to cater for all changes which have been effected at the pump station to allow for monitoring, control, data acquisition and automation in order to enhance operational efficiency of the scheme.
What MPs said
P900million is a tremendous quantum of resource so even in our debates we should not be scanty because no one has given us cost benefit analysis. I have no basis of approving these projects. There are litigations issues in other projects so there is a possibility there could be hidden information on this one. We have a DIS institution which I have always categorised as rogue because of the way our government is structured. We need to have oversight institutions not interference and between the two I will prefer listening to an oversight authority. I will not support the P900 million projects.
No one has ever said that the people do not need water, they do and we need to provide them with that as a resource. So as MPs our task here is to release the funds not to be tender adjudicators. If you want to be a tender adjudicator you can go and leave this house, here our job is to pass laws. Let’s release the funds then if anything the relevant authorities will assess the tendering process. Like it or not we will pass this so that our people get the water they so need.
Our people in Nata-Gweta, Kutamogoree, Molepolole and Palapye need water and we should provide that to them. But my main concern is the P900 million. To me this is very high and we should not be spending so much while there are other needs that the voters need. Some of these things we know them, we have been sub-contractors before and right now we cannot justify how we arrived at this amount because it is very simple. Personally I approve the project for Batswana across the nation to be availed water but I do not approve the amount needed for the project.
We need to draw water for Batswana. We spend between P300K and P400K on water bowsing daily in all the 18 constituencies. We want to increase quality of water supply and we are not going to be cancelling the National South Carrier 2. We have a delay on Mmamashia plant and we are trying to find a new solution on this issue because water demand is growing.
Khato Civils has been awarded the tender despite the minister dismissing that fact. I can even avail minutes of that meeting when the tender was awarded because it is said it was a presidential order. So the minister is misleading this house when he says the tender is yet to be awarded. So I stand by the committee (estimates) recommendations. The minister should also tell this house that Water Utilities is not supposed to award tenders as per the PPADB Act. But PPADB officials have told us that Water Utilities has refused to furnish them with a vetting letter since 2016. So this project with this huge amount should not be allowed to pass.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.