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Auditor General to sniff BIUST controversial P99 million road tender

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. 

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P500 million Tshesebe-Masunga road dispute lands in Court

25th January 2021

The Tshesebe-Mosojane-Masunga road estimated costs stand at P500 million, the tender which was awarded to Bash Carriers in 2017 has not taken shape four years after the project was commissioned.

Tshesebe-Mosojane-Masunga road when it was commissioned, was estimated at P500 million in value, this included construction of 22.50km of the two lane carriage way and 28.70km of access roads including associated bridge works, cross drainage works, storm water drainage works and relocation of services.

When it was first tendered the contract was awarded to Bash Couriers but was terminated after it was alleged that the contractor failed to deliver. It was said that Bash Couriers Construction Company was lagging behind schedule.

This publication visited the sites of Tshesebe-Masunga road last year December and it was evident that the project was at a standstill as deserted machinery on site could be seen with the gravel road also in a devastating state.

Information revealed then indicated that there had been issues of mining rights for aggregates, availability of structural engineers and manpower and a criteria for awarding tender to the specific company when the contract was terminated.

In 2016, as part of the ESP projects, government funded the 25 kilometres (Km) road project to link Tshesebe and Masunga.

Construction of the road, which also connects some of the villages within the district, commenced early in 2016 and was scheduled to be completed within 18 months.

The company had done nothing when their contract was terminated with allegations that it never had the capacity to carry out the project in the first place.

The major ESP project had ultimately robbed a lot of people potential employment when it succumbed to termination.

It was then that the government restarted the tendering process.

The project was awarded to Bango Trading Company and Zebra Construction in a joint venture at a value of P319 Million Pula.

However, information reaching this publication from the Ministry of Transport and Communications confirms that indeed there are no current works carried out on the Tshesebe Masunga road.

Responding to a questionnaire sent to them by this publication through their Public Relations Officer Doreen Moapare, the Ministry indicated that the Tshesebe-Masunga road project is before the courts therefore their response is limited by such a pending outcome.

“As a background the project had been awarded to Bash Carriers at a contract sum of P400, 044,365.68 to begin the works in May 2017 and complete the project in January 2019. Scopes of works included 51.2km main road inclusive of seven access roads. Due to non-performance, Bash Carriers contract was terminated on the 25th of September 2018. ”

Further, Moapare indicated that upon termination of Bash Carriers, a process began to ensure that the development project completes.

Five companies went for a selective tendering bid which she listed as; Lobkom Investments (Pty) Ltd, Landmark (Pty) Ltd and Truck Hire (Pty) Ltd Joint venture, ACE /Excavator Hire (Pty) Ltd and Asphalt Botswana (Pty) Ltd Joint venture, Cul De Sac, Bango Trading and Zebra Construction Joint venture.

“Some companies have since queried the results of the tendering adjudication landing the issue in the courts. We are currently awaiting a ruling expected in February/March 2021, and this will determine the course of action thereafter,” concluded Moapare.

At one point last year, reports indicated that Bango Trading Construction Company had faced raiding by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security, Botswana Police and Botswana Unified Revenue Services, with allegations that there was an emerging pattern targeting overscheduled construction companies with powerful political connections.

Bango Trading Managing Director, Moffat James, was reported to have had close links to former DIS Director Isaac Seabelo Kgosi. Bango Trading and Estate Construction Company which has obtained close to P 1, 5 billion government contracts under former President Lt Gen Ian Khama has been the subject of a parliamentary probe due to the many government contracts awarded to them.

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DPP halts JSC, Judge’s back to work plan

25th January 2021

The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.

JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.

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BDP rejects Saleshando payment proposal

25th January 2021
MP saleshando

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.

This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.

“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.

This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.

“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.

UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.

In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.

This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.

Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”

Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”

UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.

Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.

“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview
UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.

The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.

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