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.
Some vendors have been misled Vendors thrive on households goods and fresh produce
Despite the previous false allegations that the Tobacco Control Bill will lead to several 20 000 vendors across the country losing their jobs, several local vendors have expressed that they are ready for the bill and because vendors sell mostly household goods
“This is something that we openly accept and receive as street vendors, the problem is some of our counterparts were misled and made to believe that we will not be allowed to sell cigarettes on our stalls.
Some of us got to understand that the bill states that we have to be licensed to sell cigarettes, we are not supposed to sell them to children under the age of 18 years of age and eliminating the selling of single sticks. We understand that this agenda is meant to develop a healthy nation but not take us down,” said Mbimbi Tau a vendor who operates from Mogoditshane.
The Tobacco Control Bill has been passed in several countries and street vendors are operating properly without any challenges faced. Tau further mentioned that there is no way that the Tobacco Control Bill will affect their business operations, all they have to do as vendors are to get the required documentation and do what the bill requires.
Another vendor Busani Selalame who operates from Gaborone Bonnington North was not shy to express his support towards the Tobacco Control Bill, “the problem is that some people within our sector have been misled and now they think that the bill is meant to take our operations down and completely stop selling cigarettes.
I support the fact that we are not supposed to sell cigarettes to children who are under the age of 18 years of age this has always been wrong, as parents we should be cautious of such and ensure that our children are disassociated with cigarettes,” said Selalame.
The Tobacco Control Bill prohibits advertising, promotion and sponsorship by the tobacco industry to prevent messages, cues, and other inducements to begin using tobacco, especially among the youth, to reassure users to continue their use, or that otherwise undermine quitting.
Renowned economist Bakang Ntshingane is of the view that since vendors sell household goods and fresh produce they are likely to keep on making profits despite what the Tobacco Control Bill comes with. He further stated that the Tobacco Control Bill will not be of harm on the local economy since the country does not manufacture or produce any tobacco related products.
BancABC Botswana, the BSE-listed bank today announced its half year results for the six months ended 30 June 2021, against a subdued economic backdrop, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and related lockdowns.
BancABC has remained resilient in the current operating environment as business activity increased in the first half of 2021, with Real GDP up by 0.7% in the first quarter compared to a contraction of 4.6% in the previous quarter. Commenting on the results, Managing Director Kgotso Bannalotlhe said, “Currently, economic activity is relatively stable.
While COVID-19 placed significant pressure on the economy and our overall business, BancABC Botswana has shown remarkable resilience amid a tough operating environment. While the bank operates in an environment that is seeing a rise in COVID-19 infections, it is encouraging that the business has maintained a healthy capital adequacy ratio as well as being successful in improving total expenses with focus on cost containment across the board.”
The retail segment saw an increase in customer deposits this year, signalling an improvement from the previous period and strengthening the current funding mix. This segment has built great momentum and continues to advance its digital strategy, through various products such as the mobile banking app, SARUMoney, as well as enhanced product offerings such as the introduction of fash cash. The Bank has invested in its digital capabilities to ensure a seamless and hassle-free banking experience for all its customers.
The commercial segment was successful in reducing the cost of funding. In addition, Treasury and Global Markets performed well, doubling from the previous comparative period. The current year performance across the bank’s different segments is testament to the bank’s strong income lines, aiding the Bank’s resilience during this time.
“The Bank experienced slow loan book growth due to a constrained economic environment, however, we remain optimistic that as the economy recovers, credit appetite amongst the Bank’s customer-base will increase. In addition, we reported good non-interest revenue, driven by increased trading income on the back of improved margins and volumes. Our outlook remains positive as we expect momentum across the different segments to improve over time,” said Ratang Icho-Molebatsi, BancABC Botswana Finance Director.
In April 2021, BancABC Botswana’s ultimate holding company, Atlas Mara Limited, as well as ABC Holdings Limited and Access Bank Plc announced an agreement to a proposed acquisition of 78.15% of BancABC Botswana. The transaction presented an opportunity for BancABC Botswana’s strong retail banking operation to merge with Access Bank’s wholesale banking capabilities, augmenting itself as one of Africa’s leading banks.
“The transaction provides significant scope for revenue diversification and growth in the corporate and SME banking segment. Increased access to trade finance, treasury, international payments and loans through the wider distribution network offered by Access Bank’s presence in the key trade corridors that connect Africa to the rest of the world, presents solid opportunities for BancABC Botswana”, commented Icho-Molebatsi “With the transaction, BancABC Botswana’s customers stand to benefit from best-in-class digital platforms and product suites, leveraging Access Bank’s group IT infrastructure as well as other fintech solutions”, said Bannalotlhe.
Further, with Access Bank expanding its footprint into Botswana, it will position the Bank to deliver a more complete set of banking solutions to Batswana across the country”, concluded Bannalothle.
Last Friday, the board of Directors of the African Development Bank Group authorised a $137 million (P1.5 billion) loan to support Botswana’s Post COVID-19 pandemic economic recovery.
The funds, extended under the Bank Group’s Botswana Economic Recovery Support Program, will be used to enact multi-sector reforms that will increase spending efficiency, create jobs and drive inclusive growth.
The project has three components: enhancing domestic resource mobilisation and mitigating fiscal risks to enhance macroeconomic performance and create fiscal space for spending on social safety nets; supporting private sector-led agriculture and industry to bolster productivity and value addition and increase job opportunities, and offering business development services to micro and small enterprises to advance social protection and gender equity. The three components are expected to reinforce one another.
“The African Development Bank is providing support for reforms to enhance private sector-led agriculture and transformation of the industrial sector,” said Leila Mokadem, Director General of the Southern Africa Regional Development and Business Delivery Office. “Agriculture value addition can serve as a springboard for industrialisation and job creation,” she added.
The project aligns with the Bank Group’s Ten-Year Strategy (2013-2022) and its High Five strategic priorities, particularly Industrialise Africa and Improve the quality of life of the people of Africa. The African Development Bank observed that Botswana has a very low risk of debt distress and a positive medium-term growth outlook. However, a lack of economic diversification exposes the country to significant vulnerabilities.
The Bank Group’s active portfolio in Botswana amounts to UA 57.7 million ($81.9 million) and comprises four projects. The financial sector accounts for the largest share of the portfolio by industry (97.1%), followed by agriculture (1.7%) and industry (1.2%). In the past, the African Development Bank partnered with various Botswana government agencies to accelerate economic growth.
On the 21st of February 2020, the bank signed a thematic Line of Credit (LoC) of P900 Million for a 10-year tenor with Botswana Development Corporation (BDC), a wholly state-owned investment agency. This was during that time, the single largest transaction of its nature to ever take place in Botswana.
The LoC was penned to support the BDC’s long-term strategy to scale up its investments in critical sectors, including manufacturing, transport and service sectors, with the overall objective of supporting the transformation and industrialisation of the Botswana economy. BDC eyed a more comprehensive socio-economic benefit with this partnership, including attracting investments into the economy and employment creation.
The African Development Bank is a multilateral development finance institution. It has an overarching objective to spur sustainable economic development and social progress in its regional member countries (RMCs) through mobilising and allocating resources for investment and providing policy advice and technical assistance to support development efforts.
This transaction was poised to support further BDC’s focus on safeguarding its balance sheet to ensure financial sustainability whilst fulfilling its mandate as the Botswana Government’s principal investment arm.
The COVID-19 pandemic has landed massive blows on Botswana; apart from claiming more than 2300 lives thus far, the contagious plague has exacerbated existing growth challenges. The effects of the pandemic have led to an estimated real gross domestic product (GDP) contraction of 7.9% in 2020, according to the World Bank, worse than that of the 2009 global financial crisis.
The contraction reflects the impact that reduced global demand, travel restrictions and social distancing measures have had on output in crucial production and export sectors, including the diamond industry and tourism.
Botswana’s fiscal deficit is set to widen to 11.3% of GDP in FY2020/21, from 5.6% in FY2019/20, reflecting a sharp decline in mineral revenues, a sticky public sector wage bill, and the impact of the COVID-19 spending. Similarly, the current account deficit is estimated to have widened to 8 percent of GDP in 2020 following the sharp decline in diamond exports.
Developments in the global diamond industry will significantly impact the short-term recovery, given Botswana’s dependence on the commodity. While recovery is expected in 2021 due to a favourable outlook for the diamond industry, the economic impact of COVID-19 is likely to be deep and long-lasting. The P1.5 billion African Development Bank loan comes after the World Bank approved a P2.5 billion boost for Botswana early this year.
The Programmatic Economic Resilience and Green Recovery Development Policy Loan (DPL) will support the implementation of Botswana’s Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan and is designed to strengthen COVID-19 pandemic relief while bolstering resilience to future shocks.
In August, Botswana received the International Monetary Fund (IMF) 189 Special Drawing Rights allocation worth P3 billion. The IMF SDR is a non-currency asset that Botswana can convert into hard currency by trading it with other IMF member countries.