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DIS reverses P4 billion worth tenders over bribery claims

The government has this week moved swiftly to blacklist with immediate effect China Jiangsu International Botswana (Pty) Ltd, a subsidiary of China Jiangsu International over alleged corrupt practices.

However, yesterday (Friday), China Jiangsu approached High Court on urgency asking the court to compel Public Procurement and Assets Disposal Board (PPADB) to review its decision to cancel the two tenders awarded to the Chinese company. The matter is expected to be heard on Monday.Reports indicate that senior government officials in President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s administration are considering giving the work, which is critical, to another Chinese contractor (name known to this publication), subsequently recalling the tenders of China Jiangsu International Botswana.

On 7th February 2019 PPADB wrote to Managing Director China Jiangsu International Botswana with reference to the design and building of a water distribution network, sanitation reticulation, telemetry and scada and associated works in Maun PR 10/1/3/16II. The letter suggested that the board at its meeting held on the 7th February 2019 resolved to withdraw award of the above tender from China Jiangsu International Botswana which was made on the 11th October 2018.

“The reasons for withdrawal of award cannot be disclosed as they are classified,” read the letter. The letter was signed by Acting PPADB Executive Chairperson Elijah Motshedi. In another letter, Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) wrote to the Managing Director of Jiangsu International Botswana (Pty) Ltd with reference to the termination of major villages’ water supply distribution network rehabilitation for Palapye- Tender no WUC 025 (2014).

“We refer to the above contract awarded to the China Jiangsu International Botswana (Pty) Ltd as per the Notification of Award sent to the Company under cover of the Corporation’s letter dated 4th March 2015,” stated the letter. WUC invoked sub- clause 15.5 of the contract which empowers the corporation to terminate the contract it has with Jiangsu International Botswana. Jiangsu was instructed to “immediately cease work on the Contract and commence removing the Contractor’s equipment in terms of sub- clause 16.3 of the General Conditions of Contract.”

“You will be entitled to payment under provisions of sub- clause 19. 6 (a) to (e), and in this regard you are to keep proper records of all costs incurred as contemplated by sub- clause 19. 6 (a) to (e),” said the termination letter. “Please note that this decision is final, and no discussions or correspondence will be entered into regarding the decision to terminate nor the reasons for the termination.”   The tender which was awarded on the 25th September 2018 with a project duration of 42 months from the commencement date was valued at P 875, 923, 178. 85.

They were required to provide a performance bond of 10 percent of the contract amount which is (10 percent of P 875, 923, 178.85) P 87, 592, 317. 88 entered into with an approved Botswana Registered banking institution within 28 days calculated from the date of the Letter of Acceptance. The tender was awarded to China Jiangsu International (Pty) Ltd JV together with Unik Construction Engineering.  

On Wednesday 13th February 2019, the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security issued a communique where they advised all quasi-government institutions under the ministry not to engage China Jiangsu International in any of their organisations’ activities or projects as they have been found to have been involved in massive corrupt activities.

 The letter which was signed by Permanent Secretary Cornelius Dekop was addressed to; Debswana Diamond Company, Okavango Diamond Company, Diamond Trading Company, Botswana Oil Limited, Botswana Power Corporation, Botswana Geo- Science Institute, Botswana Regulatory Authority, Minerals Development Company Botswana, and Morupule Coal Mine.   Information gathered by WeekendPost this week suggests several senior government officials (names known to this publication) benefited close to P 25 million each in the ongoing saga.

China Jiangsu has lost P4 billion worth of four big tenders. This publication has been informed that Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi has ordered the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing Developments to only deal with a few approved companies that are ethical. The PSP as head of civil service is championing the ‘clean up’.

It is understood that China Jiangsu International Botswana through their lawyers Monthe Marumo and Company have written to the Attorney General to notify them of the matter where due process was ignored and called for PPADB to furnish them with a written undertaking or not to reverse the award of the tender in question. China Jiangsu International Botswana has resolved not to seek legal redress because they are a Chinese State company and they do not want to be seen as if they are fighting the Botswana government.

It is reported that the intelligence organ, was involved in the operation which exposed China Jiangsu. Contacted for comment Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), Director General, Brigadier Peter Magosi said they are a lot of investigations concerning the matter of China Jiangsu International on corruption allegations and such undertaking is still ongoing. Magosi said he could not disclose the names of those implicated as that will jeopardize the investigations but promised that he will do so when the time is right.

The Director General could not confirm whether the Chinese State company poses any issues of national security or not saying they are still investigating the matter. Meanwhile Morupisi told this publication that he does not know anything about Red East Construction (Pty) Ltd which is alleged to have been given the job.

“As far as I know, the China Jiangsu International Botswana matter has not reached my office and I don’t know anything about it. The issue concerning the Ministry of Minerals can be addressed to Permanent Secretary Cornelius Dekop, he authored that letter,” said Morupisi.
China Jiangsu International has deep roots in Botswana and has won a lucrative multi- million pula contracts for a mega construction project, easily outbidding local and foreign competitors.  

China Jiangsu International was to be engaged in a THREE GRADE SEPARATED INTERSECTIONS (INTERCHANGES) project, which has been awarded to Unik Construction Engineering (Pty) Ltd and Zhong Gan Engineering & Construction (Pty) Ltd.  The project objective is to contribute towards improved traffic flow in Greater Gaborone through construction of the 3 interchanges along KT Motsete Drive (‘Western Bypass’) i.e. at ‘Kgale Circle’, ‘Rainbow Circle’ and ‘BTV Circle’.


Conceptual design: was carried out by ADK-NAMA (Pty) Ltd consultancy firm since May 2016 and are now the Monitoring/Supervising Consultant. Procurement Process was on the basis of the OFID “Procurement Guidelines” where a “No Objection” had to be granted for critical decisions such as Technical Bids Evaluation, Financial Bids Evaluation, Bids clarifications, Tender validity extension requests etc. the tender process commenced on 21 April 2017 and up to 1st September 2017.

 The Technical Evaluation Report was completed in December 2017 while Financial Evaluation Report was completed in September 2018. Tender Award for Design, Build and Transfer was awarded to Zhong Gan Engineering & Construction (Pty) Ltd, China Jiangsu International Botswana (Pty) Ltd and Unik Construction Engineering (Pty) Ltd Joint Venture (ZGEC/CJI/UCE JV) on 25 October 2018 at a Contract Price of BWP 447,239,902.03, inclusive of 12% VAT. 

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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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