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UB catering tender: Saleshando washes her hands

Professor Lydia Ramahobo-Saleshando

The Gaborone High Court has been asked to determine whether or not, Professor Lydia Ramahobo-Saleshando influenced the award of the University of Botswana (UB) catering tender to her step son’s company, Boitekanelo catering services.

Boitekanelo Catering Services is the applicant in the case, a move motivated by the University’s decision to cancel the award and retender while also giving the losing bidder, Moghul Catering a three months extension to continue serving the UB community.

In a case that was recently registered before Justice Ketlogetswe, the company, Centre of Clinical Excellence (PTY) LTD, trading as Boitekanelo catering Services, in which the step son, Gagoitsewe Saleshando owns major shares, Professor Saleshando’s role in the tendering process will be explained.

In a battle to save the lucrative tender that was revoked last week, the company has filed affidavits that seek to clear Professor Saleshando’s name. The Affidavits suggest that Saleshando, who was a Deputy Chancellor when the catering tender was awarded had declared her interest and recused herself from the tendering process.

“In terms of section 17 (1) of the UB Act, Professor Saleshando disclosed her indirect interest but was directed by third respondent’s (Finance Committee) Ad hoc Tender Evaluation Committee to participate in the meeting,” Clinical Excellence will hook onto this point, as it appears in its filing affidavit.

The Ad hoc Tender Committee is entitled to do this by provisions of tender processes. Professor Saleshando’s disclosure was duly recorded in the minutes under section 17(2) of the UB Act. The aggrieved company whose tender was unceremoniously revoked has therefore taken the matter to court. What they want is for the court to declare the withdrawal of the tender null and void under section 17(3) of the Act because Saleshando “did not fail to disclose her interest and no decision was made which benefits her directly as she stated.”

According to the minutes of the Tender Evaluation committee, at the meeting of the 15 and 16 July 2015, Saleshando declared her interest on the basis of her relationship with her step-son who has major shares in the catering company.

In declaring the interest, Saleshando stated that she had no financial gain in the company. As a result the Ad Hoc tender Evaluation Committee, according to minutes, agreed that she should be part of the meeting and it will be detected if there is any bias.

This meeting was continued on the 16th July 2015 where she made the same declaration and the committee made the same decision as on the previous day.

At the time of tender award, Saleshando was Deputy Vice Chancellor, Student Affairs and was not a member of the Tender Committee as constituted under Tender regulations.

The company lawyer, Tshiamo Rantao of Kewagamang is expected to argue that as Saleshando explained to the Vice Chancellor in her letter to him dated 25 April 2016, she stayed at the behest of the committee.

Saleshando wrote, “I have read in the newspapers about the catering tender. One of the allegations made is that I did not recuse myself. I have also heard from unconfirmed reports that UB wishes to concede having made a mistake. I write to explain that actually I did declare my interest and recused myself. The committee reasoned that since I had no direct benefits from Boitekanelo, I should stay. The main reason was that the then Director, Student Welfare, under whose Department the catering unit falls and could chair the meeting in my absence, was only a few days in office. The task was too complex even for me,”

“I however, did not stay on to the recommendation stage. At the time the Student Affairs Committee made visitations to a number of shortlisted companies, I was not part of the committee. At the time it set to discuss their visitation findings and made a recommendation to Tender Committee, I was not part of the Committee. I had requested Professor Mokgwathi to join the visitations and take over the chairmanship in October 2015,”

“In this regard, UB could concede having made mistakes/s in some other areas and not on the basis of my involvement. It has to be noted that Student Affairs and the Tender Committees are recommending bodies and not final decision making committees. Thus the tender regulations have to be read in this context.”

Saleshando copied the letter to Acting Chairperson of Council Deputy Vice Chancellors, Student Affairs and Finance and Administration and Directors of Student Welfare and Legal Services.

The tender which was awarded to Boitekanelo was terminated on the basis that Professor Saleshando failed to recuse herself in terms of Tender regulation. The contention was that she should have recused herself after disclosing her interest.

Apart from Saleshando’s involvement Moghul were also throwing in thick accusations against Boitekanelo including allegations that the company could not demonstrate technical ability because it was recently registered. They also threw hearsay from the student community.

How Boitekanelo won the tender

The background of the case is that, in or around February 2015, UB finance committee invited companies and entities with proven record of catering to provide catering services to its main campus for a period of 3 years. The tender was to appoint two caterers to provide catering services in two of its major catering facilities and to provide the service to three staff cafeterias.

The initial deadline was 7 May 2015 noon. Meanwhile on the 23 April 2015, the Professor’s step son’s company, Centre of Clinical Excellence proceeded to register its trading name, Boitekanelo Catering Services with the Registrar of Business names. After winning the tender, the long serving caterer at the University, Moghul catering services protested the award and demanded answers from the University. Among the questions they asked was, “who registered for the UB contract, was it Boitekanelo which was only registered in April 2015, two weeks before the tender closed and why didn’t the Deputy Chancellor recuse herself?”

Moghul further alleged that Boitekanelo was de-registered in November 2015 by the Registrar of companies, about four months after winning the tender. However the certificate of incorporation of Boitekanelo was re-issued in March this year.

Last week the University withdrew the tender despite having given Boitekanelo credit that it was the only company that had meal prices for staff cafeteria hence it was awarded the tender at P20.00 for breakfast and P35 for lunch. Boitekanelo had also won the tender for student refectory at a total price of P40.00 per day, that is, P10.00 breakfast, P15.00 lunch and P15.00 dinner.

On 16 May 2016, the Secretariat of the Finance committee wrote a memorandum to its members inviting them to a meeting on Thursday, 19th May 2016. One of the agenda items was the withdrawal of Tender UBT 2015/2016.07 to Boitekanelo.

Allegedly, on the face of it there was never a meeting of the Finance Committee where a resolution was taken to withdraw or invalidate Boitekanelo tender award.

In a confirmatory affidavit filed in court this week, Nollen Bone, UB’s Secretary General for Student Representative Council (SRC) stated that the Finance Committee never had a meeting where a resolution was taken to withdraw or invalidate the said tender award of Boitekanelo.

“Thus the letter of 11th May 2016, written by Mr Davies Tele, the Secretary of the Finance Committee is untruthful and invalid as there was never a meeting where such a decision was taken leading to the letter. I any event neither any member of the SRC, nor I a member thereof were invited to any such a meeting and therefore, any such purported meeting would be null and void.” Bone explained.

As the conflict rages on, Moghul’s contract was extended up until the end of this Month and is most likely to be re-extended pending the outcome of the court decision.

Tender regulations

Section 17 of the UB on conflict of interest is applicable to all committees of the UB council, including the Finance Committee, as provided for in section 17, as read with section 19 of the UB Act.

Papers filed in court, explains that in terms of Regulations 2.1.43 of the Tender regulations, the Tender Committee is a sub-committee of the Finance Committee. So, a Tender Committee is a sub-committee of the Finance Committee, a committee of the UB Council whose conflict of interest situations are covered by section 17 of the UB Act.

To the extent that Regulation 4.4.3 requires one to recuse himself/herself after declaring his/her interest and provides no room for the direction of the committee to permit his or her taking part in the meeting, it is, according to Boitekanelo, ultra vires section 17 of the UB Act because it places on a person more requirements than those required by the Act. The company lawyer maintains that the Act takes precedence both at common law and Part XXXVII of the UB statutes.

The attorney, Tshiamo Rantao is expected to raise legal argument on this point at the hearing.

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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