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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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Civil Service volatility: Democracy vs Bureaucracy

19th April 2021
President Masisi

Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.

These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.

The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”

The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.

“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”

Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.

The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.

Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.

One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.

But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.

One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.

Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.

In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.

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Morupisi fights for freedom in court

19th April 2021
morupisi

Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.

Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.

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Pressure mounts on Biden to suspend Covid-19 vaccine patents

19th April 2021
Joe Biden

United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.

According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.

“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.

A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.

Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.

In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”

While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.

Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility.  Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.

For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies.  European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.

It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.

According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.

The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.

“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”

“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.”
The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”

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