An oversight parliamentary body, the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises (PCSBE) has instructed the Auditor General to sniff possible dirt at the newly established Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) for the suspicious awarding of a road tender.
The controversial tender encompasses a six kilometre road project valued at more than 99 million pula in which a variation was made to 152 million pula. The access road which has dragged for many years, starts from Palapye to Lecheng, and it was awarded a citizen owned company, Rockefeller Civil Engineering Contractor. It is understood that the company however failed to reach the completion stage by 2017 as per the contract and consequently there was an extension.
It is not clear if the BIUST management will take action against the contractor in case of a foul play. Subsequent to cross examination, statutory committee members felt that there is more to the issue than what meets the eye. “Having listened to the Acting Vice Chancellor before this committee, we should appoint the Auditor General to go and conduct the performance audit of this contractor for this contract. We cannot let it go without going into the depth of this issue,” Specially Elected law maker Mephato Reatile stated.
When responding to the committee, BIUST Acting Vice Chancellor (VC) Dennis Siginer, who was the Accounting Officer sitting in for substantive VC Professor Otlogetswe Totolo, who was said to be outside the country, stated that the research institution is currently undertaking a forensic audit on the same at the University. “On that issue, we are also concerned of the same but at this point in time, at the direction of the Council of BIUST concerning the road tender, there is a forensic audit ongoing which is done by KPMG. We haven’t received report on the same as yet. So I thought I make you aware,” Siginer pointed out.
The auditors, KPMG which stands for “Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler” is a network of professional service firms and one of the Big Four auditors, along with Deloitte, Ernst & Young, and PricewaterhouseCoopers. In reply Reatile told the BIUST Ag VC that “on the forensic audit, the thing is it (forensic audit report) cannot be availed to this committee. So we want our own to understand the challenges that you went through, through our Auditor General,” the law maker maintained.
So she can still go and work in conjunction with the KPMG, he stressed. Another committee member Phenyo Butale agreed: “I want to associate with the suggestion made that there be an in-depth inquiry into this. It is necessary.” The committee members were shocked that the 6 km road was priced close to 100 million while indications suggest that 1 km road can cost around 1 million and if the amount balloons it cannot go beyond unprecedented proportions like in this instance.
However, still, Siginer confirmed the amount to the delight to committee members, the move which sent shockwaves to the members. “I believe it will take around two weeks now to complete. It was awarded at the tune of 99 million pula plus – for the 6.5 km,” Siginer insisted adding that “the total cost of the variation at this stage is around 152 million.” When pressed further whether it is reasonable the BIUST Ag. VC explained that personally he believes it is not reasonable. “It is not reasonable Chair but it has been approved by Council of BIUST so I stand behind the resolution of the established body decision of the University. But it’s expensive I agree.”
It is understood that there were more than four bidders for the project and the contractor was the preferred not because they were the best in terms of price but due to many factors like contract capabilities and how they presented. Signier continued: “there were four or five contractors they were ranging between 60 and 100 million pula and we preferred the 99 million one because he was viewed as the most reasonable.”
BIUST Deputy Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Dauuid Katzke also concurred with his boss that it is pricey but added that, apart from the project, it also encompasses other works. “It’s one contract but it includes not only the road but also the street lightings, ablution blocks and lightings of the sports fields of the University among others,” the BIUST official continued. The mandate of the parliamentary committee is among others to examine the accounts of every statutory body which is required by law, to be laid before the National Assembly in the exercise of its oversight function.
In examining the accounts, the Committee shall take into account the report of the Auditor General, executed pursuant to statutory provisions, and the audit reports duly appointed external auditors and management letters. The committee is chaired by Gabane/Mmankgodi Member of Parliament (MP) Major General (retired) Pius Mokgware, Gaborone Bonnington South law maker Ndaba Gaolathe, Gaborone Central legislator Phenyo Butale and Specially Elected MP Mephato Reatile. Two legislators, also members, were absent being Gilbert Mangole, the law maker for Mochudi West as well as Moyo Samson Guma who is representing Tati East.
BPC Signs PPA with Sekaname Energy
The Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) has taken a significant step towards diversifying its energy mix by signing a power purchase agreement with Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village. This agreement marks a major milestone for the energy sector in Botswana as the country transitions from a coal-fired power generation system to a new energy mix comprising coal, gas, solar, and wind.
The CEO of BPC, David Kgoboko, explained that the Power Purchase Agreement is for a 6MW coal bed methane proof of concept project to be developed around Mmashoro village. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy in the energy mix. The use of coal bed methane for power generation is an exciting development as it provides a hybrid solution with non-dispatchable sources of generation like solar PV. Without flexible base-load generation, the deployment of non-dispatchable solar PV generation would be limited.
Kgoboko emphasized that BPC is committed to enabling the development of a gas supply industry in Botswana. Sekaname Energy, along with other players in the coal bed methane exploration business, is a key and strategic partner for BPC. The successful development of a gas supply industry will enable the realization of a secure and sustainable energy mix for the country.
The Minister of Minerals & Energy, Lefoko Moagi, expressed his support for the initiative by the private sector to develop a gas industry in Botswana. The country has abundant coal reserves, and the government fully supports the commercial extraction of coal bed methane gas for power generation. The government guarantees that BPC will purchase the generated electricity at reasonable tariffs, providing cash flow to the developers and enabling them to raise equity and debt funding for gas extraction development.
Moagi highlighted the benefits of developing a gas supply industry, including diversified primary energy sources, economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. He commended Sekaname Energy for undertaking a pilot project to prove the commercial viability of extracting coal bed methane for power generation. If successful, this initiative would unlock the potential of a gas production industry in Botswana.
Sekaname Energy CEO, Peter Mmusi, emphasized the multiple uses of natural gas and its potential to uplift Botswana’s economy. In addition to power generation, natural gas can be used for gas-to-liquids, compressed natural gas, and fertilizer production. Mmusi revealed that Sekaname has already invested $57 million in exploration and infrastructure throughout its resource area. The company plans to spend another $10-15 million for the initial 6MW project and aims to invest over $500 million in the future for a 90MW power plant. Sekaname’s goal is to assist BPC in becoming a net exporter of power within the region and to contribute to Botswana’s transition to cleaner energy production.
In conclusion, the power purchase agreement between BPC and Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village is a significant step towards diversifying Botswana’s energy mix. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy. The government’s support for the development of a gas supply industry and the commercial extraction of coal bed methane will bring numerous benefits to the country, including economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. With the potential to become a net exporter of power and a cleaner energy producer, Botswana is poised to make significant strides in its energy sector.
UDC deadlock: Boko, Ndaba, Reatile meet
It is not clear as to when, but before taking a festive break in few weeks’ time UDC leaders would have convened to address the ongoing deadlock surrounding constituency allocation in the negotiations for the 2024 elections. The leaders, Duma Boko of the UDC, Mephato Reggie Reatile of the BPF, and Ndaba Gaolathe of the AP, are expected to meet and discuss critical matters and engage in dialogue regarding the contested constituencies.
The negotiations hit a stalemate when it came to allocating constituencies, prompting the need for the leaders to intervene. Representatives from the UDC, AP, and BPF were tasked with negotiating the allocation, with Dr. Patrick Molotsi and Dr. Philip Bulawa representing the UDC, and Dr. Phenyo Butale and Wynter Mmolotsi representing the AP.
The leaders’ meeting is crucial in resolving the contentious issue of constituency allocation, which has caused tension among UDC members and potential candidates for the 2024 elections. After reaching an agreement, the leaders will engage with the members of each constituency to gauge their opinions and ensure that the decisions made are favored by the rank and file. This approach aims to avoid unnecessary costs and conflicts during the general elections.
One of the main points of contention is the allocation of Molepolole South, which the BNF is adamant about obtaining. In the 2019 elections, the UDC was the runner-up in Molepolole South, securing the second position in seven out of eight wards. Other contested constituencies include Metsimotlhabe, Kgatleng East and West, Mmadinare, Francistown East, Shashe West, Boteti East, and Lerala Maunatlala.
The criteria used for constituency allocation have also become a point of dispute among the UDC member parties. The issue of incumbency is particularly contentious, as the criterion for constituency allocation suggests that current holders of UDC’s council and parliamentary seats should be given priority for re-election without undergoing primary elections. Disadvantaged parties argue that this approach limits democratic competition and hinders the emergence of potentially more capable candidates.
Another disputed criterion is the allocation based on the strength and popularity of a party in specific areas. Parties argue that this is a subjective criterion that leads to disputes and favoritism, as clear metrics for strength and visibility cannot be defined. The BNF, in particular, questions the demands of the new entrants, the BPF and AP, as they lack a traceable track record to support their high expectations.
The unity and cohesion of the UDC are at stake, with the BPF and AP expressing dissatisfaction and considering withdrawing from the negotiations. Therefore, it is crucial for the leaders to expedite their meeting and find a resolution to these disputes.
In the midst of these negotiations, the BNF has already secured 15 constituencies within the UDC coalition. While the negotiations are still ongoing, BNF Chairman Dr. Molotsi revealed that they have traditionally held these constituencies and are expecting to add more to their tally. The constituencies include Gantsi North, Gantsi South, Kgalagadi North, Kgalagadi South, Good Hope – Mmathethe, Kanye North, Kanye South, Lobatse, Molepolole North, Gaborone South, Gaborone North, Gaborone Bonnignton North, Takatokwane, Letlhakeng, and Tlokweng.
The resolution of the contested constituencies will test the ability of the UDC to present a united front in the 2024 National Elections will depend on the decisions made by the three leaders. It is essential for them to demonstrate maturity and astuteness in resolving the constituency allocation deadlock and ensuring the cohesion of the UDC.
Repeat flight-risk suspect pays the piper
In Botswana, the Constitution Section 5 (3) (b) provides that conditions of bail are necessary to ensure that an accused appears at a later date for trial or for proceedings preliminary to trial. These conditions may include restrictions on interfering with state witnesses, the payment of a certain amount, the provision of sureties, the submission of travel documents, reporting to the police regularly, and appearing for all court mentions or proceedings. Failure to abide by these conditions can result in the revocation of bail. Robert Seditseng, a murder accused who has been detained since 2016, is currently facing the consequences of not adhering to his bail conditions – therefore paying the piper.
Despite numerous unsuccessful bail applications over the past five years, Gaborone High Court judge Michael Leburu denied Seditseng bail this week. Seditseng had requested to be set free before his trial starts on April 12th, but his freedom will now depend on the verdict. He is charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Siscah Mutukee, on June 22nd, 2016, in Charleshill.
Judge Leburu ruled that Seditseng is not a candidate for bail due to being a flight risk, as he has previously absconded from court. Defense lawyer David Ndlovu pleaded with the court to consider the time Seditseng has already spent in prison, but Leburu questioned whether there was any guarantee that Seditseng would not abscond again, given that he had done so twice before.
An affidavit from Investigations officer (IO), Constable Kedibonye Botsalo, supports the view that Seditseng is not a suitable candidate for bail due to his tendency to abscond when granted bail. The affidavit explains that Seditseng was initially denied bail by the magistrate court due to ongoing investigations and the possibility of tampering with evidence. However, a concession was later made by the prosecution, and Seditseng was granted conditional bail by the lower court.
The court documents reveal that Seditseng failed to appear before court on March 7th, 2016, without providing any explanation. As a result, a warrant for his arrest was issued. The case proceeded without him on several occasions until he finally appeared before court on July 13th, 2017. On that day, Seditseng’s bail was revoked due to his inability to provide valid reasons for his absences.
On October 4th, 2017, Seditseng was granted bail for the second time. However, he was once again absent from court on October 31st, 2017, without providing any reasons. He continued to be absent from court on five subsequent occasions until his arrest and appearance before court on August 30th, 2018.
During a period of nine months, Seditseng absconded from court without providing any reasons for his actions. This repeated pattern of absconding demonstrates a clear disregard for the bail conditions and raises concerns about his willingness to appear for trial.
Given Seditseng’s history of absconding and the potential risk of him doing so again, Judge Leburu’s decision to deny him bail is justified. The purpose of bail is to ensure the accused’s presence at trial, and Seditseng has repeatedly shown a lack of commitment to fulfilling this obligation. It is crucial to prioritize the safety of the community and the integrity of the justice system by keeping flight-risk suspects like Seditseng in custody until their trial is concluded.
In conclusion, the denial of bail to repeat flight-risk suspect Robert Seditseng is a necessary measure to ensure his appearance at trial. His history of absconding from court and failure to provide valid reasons for his actions demonstrate a disregard for the bail conditions and raise concerns about his willingness to face justice. By denying him bail, the court is prioritizing the safety of the community and upholding the integrity of the justice system.