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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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Motamma Horatius on politics and motherhood

13th January 2021
motamma

While it takes a lot to penetrate and thrive in the male dominated political space in Botswana, Block 3 Ward councillor Motamma Horatius, is one of the few females defying the odds.

Driven by passion, Horatius has always worn many hats and today she has become one of the few women who are thriving in the political space in Botswana. Prior to pursuing politics, she was an active participated in the creative space.

Horatius, a beauty queen, notably famous for her reign as Miss World Tourism Botswana represented Botswana in a television show famously known as Big Brother Africa. During her stay in the house, she got termed darling of the continent for an outstanding performance that promoted unity, humility and culture.

After serving for some time in public space, and making a name for herself as well as serving as a brand ambassador she decided to step in a career that will forever challenge her. This was after she had travelled the world and demonstrated her unique leadership skills and brilliance.

“I stopped and asked myself why am I not incorporating this brilliance back home. And wherever you go worldwide Botswana with all her faults is a beacon of hope in everything. And even successful countries came here to benchmark and implemented our policies and are flourishing such as Rwanda. So I decided to join active politics and go straight to the ruling party to add a youthful feel to an already existing force and help modernise it to serve better not from afar but from within,” she clarified.

“So my ample experience in civic leadership across countries around the world catapulted me to join active politics because I wondered, if I can do as much as an individual even across nations, how much can I do whilst in office, locally. And I chose to start from the ground up, in order to avoid leaving the locals behind.”

The stern and tenacious young leader, currently sit as the Chairperson of Finance Committee at Gaborone City Council, and also chairs Performance Monitoring Committee.

While a typical girl would dream of becoming either a nurse or choose a ‘girl’ orientated deemed career, she had a heart for politics from a very young age.  By the time she left the creative space, she had already made a name for herself, that she needed no introduction.

“I had to acknowledge first that I am a woman, and being a woman means you have to work 200 percent more than your male counterparts. So it took sleeplessness nights, and a massive amount of working smart to win legitimately,” she said.

She acknowledges that she faced a lot of challenges during the 2019 elections which she had to overcome through the assistance of her loved ones and family.

“Politics is expensive but I managed by God’s grace, family, friends, acquaintances and good Samaritans but my mind helped. I am a very good planner when it comes to execution,” she said.

“Another hurdle is, being a young woman, I had conceived during the time of primary elections; so campaigning whilst expectant, managing your emotions through betrayals, insults, stress, house-to-house then giving birth and having to hit the ground in less than two weeks having given birth via C-section, was a hurdle I overcame by God’s mercy and I am thankful to my family for helping me with the kids because politics means a lot of time away from home.”

“Another hurdle was to portray an all rounded culturally grounded Motswana woman soft but yet stern, respectful but can articulate issues well. Because even though we are civilized our society still upholds unwritten yet practiced values of what a woman is and what a man is, and if you defy societal expectations, it judges you harshly. But thankfully I remained focused on who I was and didn’t try alternate anything When I lost some of the original members of my campaign team. The pain was deep. But I wiped my tears. Soldiered on, and God increased twice the initial number.”

At some point she had to face demeaning words from other male contestants, but the best to do at the time was to shun negativity and stay focused. Male intimidation never tugged her down.

“My experience with 2019 elections was rather inclined to learning as it was my first time running for office as a politician, so I wanted to see if really hard work has results because I always hear stories of how people are bought,” she said.

“So since I was not buying anyone, I was on a learning curve to test my hard work style of delivery against what is believed out there. So it was exciting and again I say it was a learning curve as most NGOs fighting to increase women participation in politics were continuously training us.’

Despite everything she feels women political participation in Botswana is still low. She has pleaded with the media to cover them more often as she believes maybe it will help more women to run for office.

Botswana has few women in parliament, giving men dominance in policy decisions. In a 63-seat parliament, Botswana has only seven female MPs, four of them being specially elected lawmakers.

According to the 2019 edition of the biennial Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Map of Women in Politics. Among the top African countries with a high percentage of women in ministerial positions are Rwanda (51.9%), South Africa (48.6%), Ethiopia (47.6%), Seychelles (45.5%), Uganda (36.7%) and Mali (34.4%).

The lowest percentage in Africa was in Morocco (5.6%), which has only one female minister in a cabinet of 18.

Other countries with fewer than 10% women ministers include Nigeria (8%), Mauritius (8.7%) and Sudan (9.5%).Other African countries with high percentages of women MPs include Namibia (46.2%), South Africa (42.7%) and Senegal (41.8%), according to the report.

Though a slight increase, Botswana is still lagging behind when it comes to women political participation.

According to a report made by IEC for the 2019 elections, there is 11.1% women representation in parliament. There has been a 1.6% slight increase from the 2019 election compared to the 2014 elections.

According to United Nations, there are two main obstacles that prevent women from participating fully in political life.

These are structural barriers, whereby discriminatory laws and institutions still limit women’s ability to run for office, and capacity gaps, which occur when women are less likely than men to have the education, contacts and resources needed to become effective leaders.

As it stands though, Botswana has continued to recognize gender equality as central to socio-economic, political and cultural development through its National Vision 2036.

Following the adoption of the National Policy on Gender and Development in 2015, the National Gender Commission was established in September 2016, to monitor implementation of the policy.

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Gov’t imposes austerity as financial year closes

11th January 2021
President Masisi

Government ministries and departments have moved to cut expenditure in the last quarter of financial year in order to survive the economic hardship occasioned by the covid-19 pandemic. Since the outbreak, Government and the private sector have been hard hit financially due to limited economic activity brought about by government response to fighting the pandemic.

In an urgent savingram by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Molefi Keaja addressed to all council secretaries and town clerks, the government informs that it is facing unprecedented budgetary challenges for Financial Year 2020/2021.

“This has necessitated measures to be put in place to conserve cash and ensure that government is able to honour its financial obligations in the remaining (3) months of the financial year,” said the savingram dated 24 December 2020.

The Government has cut all travel by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) including State owned entities (SOEs) and Local Authorities until the next financial year in April 2021.
It has also taken a decision that all meetings, interviews, seminars, workshops, conferences, retreats, annual ceremonies and hospitality events should be conducted virtually, which save on the cost of securing venues, conference facilities and meals/refreshments.

“No replenishment of refreshments for the Executive Cadre (E2 salary scale and above) until the end of the financial year,” Keaja directed. Last year government also resolved that due to the financial effects of Covid-19 the government will no longer recruit for any jobs during the 2020/2021 financial year.

The Cabinet directed that the 2020/2021 provision for vacancies be withdrawn from Ministries, Departments and Agencies recurrent budgets to cater for supplementary estimates. According to the saving gram then by the Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM) said the country faces fiscal challenges which have been accentuated by the emergence and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amongst key ministries and departments affected were the Botswana Defence Force, National Strategy Office, Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), Commissioner of Police, Commissioner of Prisons, Clerk of National Assembly and the Directorate on Corruption & Economic Crime (DCEC).

It further deliberated that all various institutions that had begun recruitment for existing vacant positions be frozen for the remaining period of the 2020/2021 financial year. “Since funds for the vacancies will only be recruited in the next financial year 2020/20121, Ministries, Department and Agencies are advised to discontinue recruitment into such vacancies until 1st April 2021. Those who are already at an advanced stage of recruitment process are advised to withhold appointments until further notice.”

The Director of Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM), Goitseone Mosalakatane, told the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in September that despite the high unemployment rate, they cannot hire for the posts because part of the funds have been withdrawn to fight the Coronavirus.

With just a few days into the New Year, Covid-19 seems to be taking its toll and its effects will be felt vastly in the long run. Countries worldwide, including Botswana are injecting in millions of money in the fight against the deadly virus therefore placing immense uncertainty on country’s economy.

When delivering his speech at last year’s State of Nation Address President Mokgweetsi Masisi said during 2020, the domestic economy was expected to contract by 8.9 percent indicating that this is attributed to an expected sharp decline in major sectors such as mining, (minus 24.5 percent); trade, hotels and restaurants (minus 27.4 percent); construction (minus 6 percent); manufacturing (minus 3.9 percent); and transport and communications (minus 2.5 percent).

However, he assured that the economy is expected to rebound during 2021, with overall growth projected at 7.7 percent. The anticipated recovery will be driven by a rebound in growth of some major sectors such as mining (14.4 percent), trade, hotels and restaurants (18.8 percent), and transport and communications (4.2 percent).

Furthermore, Masisi pointed out that the recovery will also be supported by the Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan currently being implemented by Government. “It is critical to note that these projections are dependent on, among others, the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions.

These containment measures have the effect of reducing spending by firms and households and causing supply-chain disruptions. Beyond this, the recovery phase will be influenced by confidence effects on households and businesses; sectoral transformation and changes in work patterns; as well as prospects for the recovery of global financial markets and commodity prices.”

Emphasising this, he explained that despite the challenges of COVID-19 there still remains the delicate balance of opening the economy whilst containing the disease burden. “Inflation according to the latest data from Statistics Botswana, inflation fell significantly from 2.2 percent in September 2019 to 1.8 percent in September 2020, remaining below the lower bound of the Bank of Botswana’s medium-term objective range of 3 to 6 percent,” he said.

The significant decline in inflation mainly reflects the downward adjustment in fuel prices in June 2020. However, inflation may rise above the current forecasts if the international commodity prices increase beyond current projections and in the event of upward price pressures occasioned by supply constraints due to travel restrictions and lockdowns.

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BDP readies for Congress

11th January 2021
BDP congress

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) last year had to cancel its elective congress due to the strict measures that had to be put in place due to Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.

Two other party events Women’s Wing Congress including the much anticipated victorious election celebration were also postponed due to the pandemic as gatherings were cancelled indefinitely.
However the BDP is adamant that the party will be able to hold its National Congress and all other events that had been frozen this year.

Speaking to this publication chairman of BDP Communication & International Relations Sub-Committee Kagelelo Kentse said that the party was readying itself for the congress with the main objective being to review resolutions that were taken at their 38th National Congress in Mochudi in 2019. Emphasising this, Kentse said it was commendable that most of the resolutions taken in 2019 have by far been fulfilled.

Moreover, he said it would mean a lot for the party to be able to meet at the congress, this he said would give them the opportunity to introspect and reflect with regards to their manifesto. In 2019 the BDP made about eleven resolutions of which five of these were resolved and gazetted. The abridged resolutions were that the amendment of the law to allow agricultural land owners to use up to 50 percent of their land for non-core purposes, to amend the law to cancel transfer duty on property transferred between the spouses.

President Masisi also passed a law to allow married couples to be independently allocated land and increase threshold for non-payment of transfer on property acquired from P250k to P750k. On the resolution in the tourism sector, Kentse said efforts are very advanced to have local play a part. He said there is ongoing work with the Ministry of Lands on concessions that will be allocated to citizens.

According to the BDP communications chair the Ministry of Tourism has availed more opportunities in dams for tourism thus far, having already issued expression of interest for Letsibogo, Dikgatlhong, and Gaborone dams. Citizens are said to have applied for tenders which are currently under evaluation. There are about 45 campsites set aside for citizens in game reserves and forest reserves for tourism.

The resolution on the declaration of assets and liabilities law which was passed and amended this year, was supported by all legislators including those from opposition. Emphasising this he explained that contentions were on issues to do with valuations, and leaders have started declaring.

With the Congress comprising of the elective congress, the BDP is yet to embark on it an objective Kentse said is on their to do list this year even though the calendar of events has not yet been made.
The elective congress has aroused interest, especially the Secretary General position which has attracted a number of participants of which observers believe will accord the incumbent, Mpho Balopi, the current secretary general, the opportunity to buy time if at all he will seek re-election in the position.

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