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Thite, the P272 million tender, and conflicts

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislator, Karabo Gare and parliamentary hopeful John Thite are caught up alongside businessman Nicholas Zakhem in a tender dispute amounting to P272 million.

Fresh information reaching WeekendPost suggest that businessmen-cum-politicians— John Thite and Karabo Gare are both implicated in a controversial tender that siphoned over P 272 million from Government in 2017.  The money spinning tender at the centre of controversy was for the construction of roads, bridges and storm water drains and paved parking areas in Tutume village.  According to a close source there were a lot of irregularities and flouting of the evaluation procedures as stipulated in the LAPAD Regulations in the tender process.

According to the invitation to tender as specified in the Volume 2 page 12, the method of evaluation of to be applied on responsive Bids was to be Quality and Cost Based Selection in accordance with Regulation 72 sub regulation 1 of the LAPAD Regulations. The tender closed on the 16th February 2017 and the Bids were opened in the presence of Bidders who attended the tender opening. 

Bid prices of all submitted tenders were opened and announced by the engineer. Another irregularity is that by opening the bid prices at tender opening by the Engineer violated Regulation 72 sub regulation 1 of the LAPAD Regulations which states in summary:
“A quality and cost based selection method is the evaluation method which takes into account both the quality and the cost of a bid process where a technical bid is first evaluated without prior access to the financial bid”.

According to the tender process, in accordance with these regulations the Evaluator was supposed to follow work in the following manner to comply with the Quality and Cost based evaluation criteria: At tender opening, the Engineer was supposed to open the Technical Component of the Tender only and announce the submitted bids without opening the financial bids.

 Upon completion of evaluation of the technical bids, bids that did not achieve the minimum score specified on page 18 of the evaluation criteria were to be eliminated from further evaluation. The engineer was then notify all bidders to the opening of financial bids for bids qualified in the technical evaluation. On completion of evaluating the financial bids the Evaluator was to combine the weighted Technical Scores and Finical scores to identify the best evaluated bidder.

Bango Trading wrote to Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) requesting them to intervene and stop the contract award process and instruct the procuring entity, Central District Council to re- evaluate the tender based on Least Cost Evaluation Criteria.
During the pretender site visit the procuring entity, Central District Council disclosed the project budget to be P 290 000 000. 00 and indicated that only bidders who were within the 10 percent range of this budget would be considered for award.

According to the debriefing, Bango Trading (Pty) Ltd bid was evaluated high technically and scored lowest within the 10 percent of the budget.  Hence Bango Trading (Pty) Ltd deserves to be awarded the contract based on Least Cost Evaluation Criteria. Bango Trading bid was P 264 189 413.47 against the best the best evaluated bid price of P 272 373 310.96 which is a saving of P 8 188 897.49 to the client. A cost saving of this magnitude was not considered was not considered as insignificant as the Engineer perceived in his remarks as this is investment which the client could have saved.

The concern was that regulation 78 (1) and (2) of the LAPAD Act was not taken into consideration to determine whether the best evaluated bidder has the capability and into account to determine whether the best evaluated bidder has the capability and resources to effectively carry out the contract. The best evaluated bidder has not carried out projects of similar magnitude in recent years and tax payers money are being put to risk in proceeding with the award of contract to them.

While responding to an appeal by Bango Trading, PPADB wrote “The contents of the letter were duly considered by the Board at its sitting of the 17th August 2017, and it was noted that you request PPADB to intervene and stop the contract award process and instruct the procuring entity, Central District Council to re- evaluate the tender based on Least Cost Evaluation Criteria.

When considering the appeal, the Board further noted the complaint has been before the Appeals Board, however it did not exhaust the process as stipulated by section 24 of the Local Authorities Procurement and Asset Disposal (LAPAD) Act. In light of this, the Board therefore advises that Bango Trading (Pty) Ltd should follow the complaint Resolution process as per the LAPAD Act, also in line with the ruling by the Appeals Board”.

One of the Central District Council Principal Engineers allegedly assisted a construction company owned by a newly crowned BDP parliamentary hopeful for Gantsi North and tenderpreneur, John Thite to win the multi- million-pula tender in Tutume. The company known as Thiite Rabble Screeners, owned by Thite was awarded the P272 million tender for the infrastructural development in Tutume when the said company was allegedly did not qualify because at the time of tendering a garnishee order was issued against it. It became apparent that Thiite Rabble Screeners was also working with Zac Construction owned by Nicolas Zakhem.

According to close sources John Thiite was given P 8 million as a compensation for the tender and the company has an office in CBD iTowers owned by Zakhem. An eye witness account confirmed to WeekendPost that John Thite funded Karabo Gare, a Member of Parliament for Moshupa- Manyana who was replacing President Mokgweetsi Masisi with P 200 thousand which was withdrawn at FNB opposite White City in Gaborone. It is alleged that the money was inside Thite’s car during his rally in Moshupa. A senior investigator in the matter has since been transfered.  

The DCEC Chief Investigator in the matter Eugene Wasetso who was investigating the case has since been transferred to Ministry of Health. It is also alleged that Nicolas Zakhem of Zac Construction has interests in Haas Consult a consultancy company that was in charge of the project. A close source to the developments said Zac Construction is currently paid directly by CDC even though they were sub contracted by Thiite Rabble Screens. The matter was reported to DIS and the then DIS Director Isaac Kgosi confirmed that the matter was reported but they never followed up.

It is also alleged that a fraudulent transaction was made with one of the local banks while securing the citizen 5% Performance Bond and the bank worker has been suspended from work pending investigations into the matter. In July last year Thite was also arrested for questioning by the DCEC for him to account for the role that he is alleged to have played in the questionable Tutume Sub District tender.

Contacted for comment Moshupa- Manyana Member of Parliament, Karabo Gare disputed the allegations saying the maximum amount he received from John Thite was P 2000. 00 for fuel. Gare said he has no relations with Thite except that they are both members of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). Moshupa- Manyana MP said sometime last year during his campaigns Thite fuelled his cars with Diesel at Shell Filling Station with his company account and gave him P 2000 00. “I only read of his alleged corruption in newspapers”, he said.

Contacted for comment Nicolas Zakhem of Zac Construction said they had given quotation to Thiite Rabble Screens during the tender stage to carry a specialized work for constructing 3 Bridges on piles, plus bridges approaches and furthermore they have agreed to lease to Thiite Rabbles part of equipment which might be needed on the project. According to Zakhem all the above were included in Thiite tender submission. “I can say that Thiite didn’t front for us. Moreover the above said project has different subcontractors, plus Thiite’s own equipment”.

Zakhem said he does not know Karabo Gare and they have never met before. As for his relation with Thiite, he described it as purely professional through the Tutume project. He said the office in question which he allegedly gave to Thiite’s company at his CBD iTowers since 2014, was an office space measuring a total area 34 square meters, consisting the office space of an open room and bathroom is leased to Thiite Rabble Screens.

Moffat James of Bango Trading said according to debriefing, Bango Trading (Pty) Ltd bid was evaluated high technically and scored lowest within the 10% of the budget. Hence Bango deserved to be awarded the contract based on Least Cost Evaluation Criteria. He said they appealed twice but they were told that the Appeals Board decision is final. He however noted that the Chairman of the Appeals Committee Keletso Rakhudu and his Secretary were conflicted and could not have attended the Adjudication Committee and that they acknowledged the mistake. He also noted with concern that both Nicolas Zakhem and Tony Rees are both Directors of Haas Consult hence they are conflicted in the matter. 

Ghanzi parliamentary candidate John Thiite could not be reached for comment as his phone ran unanswered after he told WeekendPost that he is in Ghanzi and will call back which he never did. Employees at his CBD Office said he will be in sometime next week but could not specify the exact day of arrival.

It is also alleged that Thiite Rubble Screens (TRS) did not meet the criteria of ERB at site visit which was part of the tender requisites. All companies attending the site visit should be registered with Engineers Registration Board (ERB). In a letter they wrote to Thiite Rubble Screens on 11 February 2019, ERB noted that TRS is practicing engineering without being registered with ERB or not holding a valid practising certificate. The Engineers Registration Board is charged with promoting highest standards of engineering practice, and protection of the welfare and interest of the public in the engineering practice.

“Therefore, the Engineering Registration Board hereby serves notice on you to submit an implication for registration within 7 days of service of this letter upon you, failing which the Board shall institute legal proceedings against you or obtain a court interdict restraining you from practicing engineering. This is a civil proceeding that does not preclude criminal complaints being lodged with the police and their subsequent prosecution”.

The letter which was signed by Dennis Olaotse, ERB Registrar/CEO and copied to Managing Director conclude that this matter be treated with the seriousness it deserves given that their employer may be forced to dismiss them to take a leave of absence pending your registration with the Engineers Registration Board and securing a valid practicing certificates.

This reporter called John Thiite for over three weeks to get his side of the story but to no avail. Thiite has been uncooperative sometimes claiming he is in a meeting and would cut the call but will later answer a different number from the office. We have since written him messages on WhatsApp as well as his phone messenger but he has not replied to date.

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No end in sight for Nam, Botswana borderline feud

27th July 2021
Namibian-report

Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.

Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.

“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.

Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.

The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.

The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River.  They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).

His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.

The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.

Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.

37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far

Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.

“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.

It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.

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Masisi gives KBL the “middle finger”

27th July 2021
President Masisi

Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.

This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.

In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.

“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.

Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.

Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”

Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.

He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”

According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.

Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.

“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.

He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.

Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.

“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.

He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”

Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.

However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.

In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.

“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.

Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.

“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.

Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.

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Gov’t gives parallel statements on COVAX

27th July 2021
COVAX---lelatisitswe

In  an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.

The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.

“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.

According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.

“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more  money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.

Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.

“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.

“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.

COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.

Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.

The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.

The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).

On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.

Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.

President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.

“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.

On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.

In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.

Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.

Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.

As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.

This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.

The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.

As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.

“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.

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