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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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BDP unfazed by threat of united opposition 

30th November 2021
BDP unfazed

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) leadership has indicated that the party is not worried about the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by opposition parties to support each other in the upcoming bye-elections.

Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), which comprise three opposition parties; Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana People’s Party (BPP) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP), recently agreed terms with other opposition entities; Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and the Alliance for Progressives (AP).

The duo of AP — a splinter part of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) — and BPF — a splinter of the BDP— did not contest under the ambit of UDC in the 2019 general election. The two parties have a combined four seats in parliament and a combined popular vote of 74 000 from the 2019 general election.

The signing of the MoU on bye-election is seen as a giant step by the opposition to consolidate their efforts against the BDP in the 2024 general election.

Unveiling the 11 candidates that will represent the party in the bye-elections billed for 18 December 2021, BDP Chairman Slumber Tsogwane stated that the cooperation of opposition parties to gang against the ruling party is not a new development in Botswana and that BDP has always emerged top in the face of such collaboration.

Tsogwane indicated that, as per reports, opposition parties had challenges relating to the allocation of wards, which were only resolved after the intervention of the leader of UDC, Advocate Duma Boko.

“We are not frightened by opposition cooperation. It is not happening for the first time. We have tasted it before. They tried in 2019, and it did not work,” Tsogwane said buoyantly.  “We still want to face them as a united block in 2024 because BDP is a giant that can only be tried by a united opposition.”

Tsogwane’s sentiments were shared by party secretary-general Mpho Balopi, who also believe that opposition cooperation is a non-starter. He said, in 2019, BDP increased its popular vote, despite BCP having joined the ranks after not partaking in the 2014 general elections. “They believed that based on 2014 numbers, the BCP joining UDC will give them power, but that was not the case,” Balopi said.

BDP increased its popular vote from 46.4 percent in the 2014 general elections to 52.6 percent in the 2019 general election. The 2014 general election was BDP’sBDP’s worst in history, with the party garnering a popular vote below 50 percent for the first time since independence. BDP also increased its seat by one in the last general elections. Meanwhile, the opposition garnered 19 seats in 2019 compared to 20 in the 2014 general election.

“They [opposition parties] have been doing so since 2011 after the formation of Botswana Movement for Democracy in 2010. It is not a question of what are we going to do as the BDP. It is about what we have done in the past,” said Balopi. Balopi, who first became party secretary-general in 2011, led the BDP to the 2014 and 2019 general elections.

Last weekend, BDP held primaries in seven wards to choose candidates to represent the party in the 18 December bye-election. Meanwhile, four wards agreed to settle for compromise candidates.

The wards are going for elections on 18 December are the following; Nkgange North Ward (Nkange), Tamasane Ward (Mmadinare), Khwee Ward (Boteti East), Tumasera-Seleka Ward (Sefhare-Ramokgonami), Ga-Molopo Ward (Goodhope-Mabule), Lorolwane Ward (Mmathethe-Molapowabojang), Moshupa East Ward, (Moshupa-Manyana), Boseja South Ward (Mochudi East), Metsimotlhabe Ward (Gabane-Mmankgodi), MotokweTsetseng Ward (Takatokwane), Lentsweletau West (Lentsweletau-Mmopane).

Following the conclusion of the MoU agreement, BNF has been allocated six wards to contest. The wards are Boseja South, Khwee, Lorolwane, Moshupa East, Motokwe and Ga-Molopo. The BNF will, however, hold primary elections in Khwee while other wards settle for compromise candidates.

BCP will contest in Tumasera-Seleka Ward, Nkange North Ward and Metsimotlhabe Ward. An agreement has been reached that Metsimotlhabe Ward, despite being allocated to BCP, will field an AP candidate to warm up opposition unity talks for the 2024 general election. AP has also been awarded Lentsweletau East Ward.

Meanwhile, the new kid in the bloc, BPF, has managed to get Tamasane Ward in Mmadinare. It was also given Lorolwane Ward on paper, but it has decided to field a BNF candidate at the ward.

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Inside Private Security companies firearms proposal to Gov’t

30th November 2021
Private Security Company

A proposal by the private security companies operating in the cash business for firearm licensing, sent to government for consideration, has called on government to speedily consider licensing private security companies operating in the cash business as a panacea to the prevailing cash heists.

The companies say they do not seen why they cannot be armed because all the countries surrounding Botswana within the SADC region have a provision for armed private security. This, they say, has been the case for many years with South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Zambia, and Angola all having this security measure in place and in many cases, for the last three decades.

“In all of these countries, the law provides that private security companies are entitled to use firearms subject to conditions under the law. For instance, in Angola private security personnel may only use firearms provided they have undergone competency training and are also required by law to keep registry and tracking of the licenced firearms. In many of these countries, armed private security does not only include for cash operations (including cash in transit) but extends to both the alarm response and to man-guarding services (a case in point being Namibia and South Africa),” reads the proposal.

The proposal further says this situation is further exacerbated by the fact that the Botswana currency is generally stronger than all other currencies in the region making it an attraction to would-be criminals. “Additionally the fact that this currency can be exchanged in any of the countries bordering it with relative ease, makes it an even more attractive avenue,” reads the proposal.

The estimated size of the cash in transit business, according to the companies, is estimated at over BWP 120m annually with over 160 daily delivery and collections between clients, the Central bank and the security company’s cash centres and automated teller machines (ATM’s). 

There are currently five security companies providing the CIT services in Botswana. Despite operating in the same security threat environment, and in many instances transporting high value consignments as the Government transfers, private security companies say they do not have the same armed escorts accorded to government consignments like cash and diamonds, as they are not licenced to carry firearms by law. 

“With the advent of increased security threats (as evidenced by the number of attempted and successful heists), these businesses require the same level of security in the form of having licenced firearms in order to provide their own armed escorts to ensure that there is sufficient cover and provide a deterrent to would-be criminals. The current arrangement of using Police escorts for private security, while effective as the Police are armed and acts as a deterrent, is not sustainable both in terms of resourcing and cost,”

Explaining how government handles own cash transfers, the companies says the government enlists armed Police escorts when moving high value consignments, in particular when transferring cash from and to the Central Bank due to the high risk associated with this movement. 

“This acts as a deterrent to ensure that there are no attacks on these consignments. This has proven to be an effective deterrent as criminals, knowing that the Police are armed, do not attempt to attack these transfers and to date there has not been a case reported on these despite the number of years this service has been in place,” stressed the companies in the proposal.

The companies dismissed claims that the licensing may in some ways be misused saying the government through the Arms and ammunition board has always conducted raffle draws for both shotgun and rifles for members of the public in order to access firearms licences. This, they say, has been ongoing for many years but there have not been serious incidents of misuse. 

“This provides a view that where there are proper control mechanisms in the issuance of firearm licences, public safety can still be guaranteed,” they observed.

Recommendations by Private Security Companies

Private security companies with Cash businesses request to be allowed to have licenced firearms in order to establish and run their own escort services. This is the only service to access firearms to mitigate the current risk. This will be subject to, amongst other requirements.

Strict criteria to be formulated in relation to the training of the officers who will use the firearms including continuous retraining at specified intervals. Firearms register to be developed with tracking capability and auditable by the authorities at all times. Firearms are retired by the officers at the end of duty on a daily basis and issued the following working day.

There will be a requirement for psychological evaluation for officers to be issued with firearms including ongoing evaluations at various intervals. The cash businesses will need to demonstrate the number of firearm licences required in line with the size of their cash businesses; approval to be based on proportionality to the required escort service and satisfaction 

The need for firearm licencing is further demonstrated by the nature of the business in that private clients invest in security companies for safe custody and transfer of their cash assets hence the security companies require to be effectively prepared to match these requirements and expectations that comes with this.

The companies proposed two models to be adopted, the first being for the provision for arming tactical teams that will provide escorts for the cash businesses. These teams will be in-house and the company is the one being licenced. The second is the provision for arming CIT crews (driver and crew man) across the cash business 

The companies further warned that this has to be taken seriously because the Cash In Transit service is critical to the daily functioning of the money economy by ensuring that cash circulation is optimally maintained. 

Major clients such as banks and retailers, they said, depend on this service for successfully running their businesses. “For these clients, same day value in money transfers is crucial as customer demands are increasingly high to be able to withdraw and deposit money at ATM’s without disruption and in the case of retailers deposits made are required for working capital on a daily basis. Disruption in the provision of the service, as is the case where the security of the service is affected due to armed robberies, results in the disruption to the functioning of these sectors and the associated losses incurred,” they concluded.

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How Ministry Local Gov’t lost control of P3.3 billion for orphans 

30th November 2021
Molale

The Auditor General’s report for 2019/2020 shows how hundreds of orphans could not benefit from an account holding billions of Pula because officials at the Department of Social Protection under the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development slept on the job. 

Also robbed of the opportunity to benefit from the programme were vulnerable children.

The report reveals that the Department had outsourced beneficiary payments to Botswana Post, Sandulela Telecom Botswana and Smartswitch Botswana (Pty Ltd). Each service provider was engaged to effect payments for specific elements of the beneficiary packages. The Department disbursed a total of P3.3 billion from 2016/2017 to 2019/2020.

“However, the Department had lost control of the key financial operations to the service providers, who had breached the terms of the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) on numerous occasions,” the report says.

The report says that a Memorandum of Understanding between the department and service providers requires engaged companies to ‘consolidate, verify and return all unclaimed payments to Client, together with a list of beneficiaries who did not claim such payments’. Such information must be submitted after every three (3) months for reconciliation.

“However, the service providers on numerous occasions contravened the terms of the agreement, as they took a substantial amount of time beyond the stipulated period to return unclaimed monies. Instances were noted where Sandulela took unduly long, even up to 21 months to submit returns to the Government,” the report says,

The report states that Sandulela held an average of P6.2 million in unclaimed cash allowances during this period, thereby denying the Government the opportunity to invest the monies elsewhere and earn interest.

Regarding the MoA, the report says that Botswana Post and Sandulela Telecom were required to open separate bank accounts to be used ‘solely for the social benefits cash allowances in the Agreement and the interest accrued in that account shall be reimbursed to the Client’. The agreement also provided that the service provider may keep the monthly unclaimed cash component for a period not exceeding three months with interest accrued thereon.

In line with their obligations, says the report, the Department credited Botswana Post and Sandulela Telecom with P2.3 billion and P371 million, respectively, for social welfare grants payroll for 2016/2017 to 2019/2020. Some of the beneficiaries did not collect their cash allowances monthly, and these had accumulated to P66 million for Botswana Post and P9 million for Sandulela Telecommunication Botswana.

“Based on the above observations, the Government could have earned interest on the unclaimed cash allowances if they had been returned as prescribed. As such, the service providers did not fully abide by the terms of the agreement,” the report says.

The report found that the agency fees for each invoice were based on the number of beneficiaries paid in a period multiplied by the rate prevailing at a specific location. It was observed that the Client did not receive reconciliation reports showing paid and unpaid allowances in time to update the Social Benefit and Reconciliation System (SOBERS) application system.

“Therefore, the credibility of the amount as calculated in the invoice could not be reasonably assured. The P47 million and P142 million agency fees paid to Sandulela and Botswana Post respectively for a period of 4 years may not be reflective of the number of beneficiaries paid,” the report says.

Retarding the Beneficiary Management Process, the report shows that the beneficiary registration system had some deficiencies, which resulted in delays in updating the monthly payroll with newly approved beneficiaries. Some beneficiaries had to wait for up to 5 years before they could receive the cash allowance, consequently defeating the programme’s key objectives.

“A total of 2 270 social grant beneficiaries who passed on from as far back as 1997/1998 were removed from the payroll in 2017/2018 and 2018/2019, which meant that some of them had remained active in the payroll for more than 20 years after their death. The Department had deposited their share of cash allowances amounting to over P17 million with the service providers, and there was no evidence of interest paid to the Client on this amount,” the report says.

In addition, the report says, cash allowance for 50 beneficiaries was claimed even though they were deceased. The audit could not rule out the misappropriation of P185 545 in payments to non-existent beneficiaries.

In terms of the Child in Need of Care (CNC) and the Community Home Based Care (CHBC) programmes, the report says, children require a special diet prescribed by a paediatrician to be enrolled. For that reason, the food parcels should include the prescribed food items only. According to the report, this proved to be easy to manipulate since the Smartswitch card did not have any restrictions established specifically for CNC.

“The Department of Social Protection (DSP) is in partnership with 9 NGOs, whose main aim is to protect the orphans and vulnerable children. The implementation of the programme includes key activities assigned to the District Councils,” says the report.

Therefore, the report says that the exchange of crucial information reports between the two parties is vital for the Client to be up-to-date with the operations to execute their mandate. The oversight role was therefore considered ineffective due to the following:

The NGOs did not provide quarterly narrative reports, financial reports and annual audited financial statements to account for transactions on their operations, which was in breach of the MoA. The Botswana National Plan of Action for Orphans and Vulnerable Children for 2010-2016 requires DSP to establish an independent body to provide oversight comprising development partners; however, this had not been done.

The DSP did not establish the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee as required by the National Monitoring & Evaluation Framework, whose mandate was inter-alia to ensure that Local Authorities effectively account for funds disbursed to them and establish whether they had been utilized for the intended purposes.

As a result, the report says the “Department had lost control of and had abdicated their responsibility and accountability for funds approximating P806 million disbursed between 2016/2017 and 2019/2020 to the NGOs and Local Authorities.”

It says that while the objectives of different classes of social grants may have been met, it is nevertheless of paramount importance that all the prescribed criteria in all the authorities are complied with for sound management of the programme.

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