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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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ILO Launches Media Toolkit on Reporting on Labour Migration

5th July 2024

Cape Town: The International Labour Organization (ILO), in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration, launched the Southern African Migration Management Project (SAMM) media toolkit on reporting on labour migration within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region last week. This toolkit is designed to guide journalists and media professionals in balanced and factual reporting on labour migration, thereby enhancing the quality and media coverage of migration issues within the SADC region.

Furthermore, the toolkit aims to advocate for behavioural changes among migrant workers, employer organizations, trade unions, civil society organizations, governments, and policymakers to improve conditions for migrants and reduce exploitative practices.

At the official launch, Gloria Moreno Fontes, SAMM Project Manager, stated that the toolkit aims to support the United Nations’ “Together, Respect, Security, and Dignity for All Refugees and Migrants” campaign, launched in 2016 by the UN Secretary-General. According to Fontes, the UN Together campaign seeks to promote global action against non-discrimination and address the rising problem of xenophobia against migrants and refugees. TOGETHER is a growing coalition of Member States, private sector entities, civil society representatives, and individuals committed to combating hate speech, changing negative narratives on migration, and strengthening social cohesion between host communities and refugees and migrants.

“Worldwide, migrants are still too often victims of racist, discriminatory, and xenophobic attacks. The media often promotes a toxic public narrative on migration and reinforces stigmatization through the inclusion of xenophobic and discriminatory messages,” Fontes highlighted.

She further noted that the press often portrays migrants as criminals, illegals, and as “stealing jobs from national workers.” She emphasized that migrants frequently become scapegoats during economic recessions, making it essential to change negative perceptions and attitudes through evidence- or fact-based journalism that helps eliminate public misconceptions.

Discussing the importance of balanced reporting and combating hate speech, United Nations Information Center (UNIC) Director Masimba Tafirenyika remarked that journalists hold the power to shape public opinion and influence societal norms. He continued, noting that the practice not only ensures a well-informed public but also upholds the democratic values of fairness and justice.

“Alongside balanced reporting, the rise of hate speech, especially on digital platforms, presents a growing threat to social cohesion and democratic values. Hate speech undermines social harmony and can incite violence, discrimination, and prejudice,” Tafirenyika noted.

According to the UNIC Director, balanced reporting builds public trust in the media as audiences perceive journalists as fair and unbiased, thus making them more likely to trust the information presented. He added that this trust is crucial for the media to uphold democracy, as it empowers citizens to engage in informed debate and hold their leaders accountable.

However, Tafirenyika pointed out that the media landscape in Southern Africa, with a few exceptions, is often marred by political interference, economic pressures, and, in some cases, self-censorship. “These factors can lead to biased reporting, where certain voices are amplified while others are marginalized. When media outlets become mouthpieces for political agendas, the public’s trust in journalism is eroded, and the democratic process is undermined. Therefore, it is essential for journalists and media organizations to adhere to ethical standards of fairness, accuracy, and impartiality,” the UNIC Director noted.

He further highlighted that hate speech poses a significant threat to social cohesion and stability, especially in Southern Africa. “The digital age has amplified the reach and impact of hate speech. Social media platforms, while offering opportunities for free expression and civic engagement, also provide a breeding ground for hate speech,” Tafirenyika concluded.

 

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CEO Africa Roundtable: Mnangagwa advocates for technological embrace

17th June 2024

The CEO Africa Roundtable has emerged as a pivotal platform for shaping national, regional, and international development dialogues through public-private engagements. At the annual CEO Africa Roundtable event held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa exhorted business leaders to embrace technology and leverage indigenous solutions to stimulate Africa’s economic growth.

Mnangagwa highlighted that the presence of delegates from across the continent signifies the business community’s confidence in Zimbabwe’s trade and investment environment, as well as in the broader regional (SADC) and continental markets.

Addressing the theme, “The Future of Africa: Modernize, Reshape, and Grow,” President Mnangagwa asserted that this theme aligns with Africa’s developmental aspirations, emphasizing the need “to innovate in order to increase production and productivity, as espoused in the African Union’s Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.”

He remarked that the Roundtable provides its members with a valuable platform for networking, gaining expert insights, sharing experiences regarding the local business environment, and proposing policy recommendations aimed at enhancing the business operating environment.

The President lauded the CEO Africa Roundtable and its partners for organizing focused discussions, dialogue sessions, and innovative platforms tailored to various key economic sectors as part of the event.

“Innovation and the use of information communication technology are critical enablers as we traverse the journey towards modernizing and reshaping the African continent’s economic landscape,” Mnangagwa stated.

According to Mnangagwa, the world is on the cusp of a technological revolution that is transforming how “we work and relate to one another.” He noted that this shift involves a fusion of technologies that blur the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.

This technological disruption is affecting every industry, hence Mnangagwa urged business leaders and policymakers to capitalize on the fourth industrial revolution, which holds the potential to elevate global income levels and enhance the quality of life for populations worldwide.

President Mnangagwa challenged African business leaders to be innovative, embrace their identities, and devise homegrown solutions. He asserted that Africans possess the platform and intelligence to elevate the continent’s economy to greater heights.

Earlier, CEO Africa Roundtable Chairman Oswell Binha indicated that the platform is expanding across Africa. He welcomed the addition of three new chapters in Botswana, Malawi, and Zambia. He further noted that more chapters will be introduced as part of efforts to foster collaboration among African businesses, harnessing the principles of the Africa Free Trade Area and regional integration. Over 300 delegates from across Africa attended the CEO Roundtable event in Victoria Falls.

 

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BOTSWANA PARTICIPATES IN CEO AFRICA ROUNDTABLE SUMMIT

16th June 2024

At the prestigious CEO Africa Roundtable Summit held in Victoria Falls, Botswana was represented by the Chairperson of the CEO Africa Roundtable Botswana Chapter, Tryphinah Dongwana-Kenalemang, and her deputy, Aubrey Lute. This annual convergence, themed “The Future of Africa: Modernize, Reshape, and Grow,” drew luminaries from across the continent.

Over 300 Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and business Executives attended the Summit.

Dongwana-Kenalemang elaborated on the significance of Botswana’s attendance, emphasizing that it served as a benchmarking exercise in preparation for hosting a similar event in Botswana. She underscored the imperative for African nations to collaborate and exchange trade insights, thereby unlocking a wealth of opportunities.

The CEO Africa Roundtable is dedicated to fostering economic growth and sustainable development across the continent. Its objectives include promoting intra-African trade, driving innovation, and forging strategic partnerships. The platform enables business leaders to share knowledge, engage in high-level dialogue, and influence policy-making.

The genesis of the Botswana Chapter’s relationship with the CEO Africa Roundtable dates back to their initial encounter at the US-Africa Business Summit in July 2023, held in Gaborone. This seminal meeting laid the groundwork for ongoing collaboration and mutual support in advancing Africa’s economic future.

 

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