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In a battle to save the lucrative tender that was revoked last week, the company has filed affidavits that seek to clear Professor Saleshando’s name.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.
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.
Over 2,000 civil servants in the public sector have been interdicted for a variety of reasons, the majority of which are criminal in nature.
According to reports, some officers have been under interdiction for more than two years because such matters are still being investigated. Information reachingÂ WeekendPostÂ shows that local government, particularly councils, has the highest number of suspended officers.
In its annual report, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) revealed that councils lead in corrupt activities throughout the country, and dozens of council employees are being investigated for alleged corrupt activities. It is also reported that disciplined forces, including the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), police, and prisons, and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) have suspended a significant number of officers.
The Ministry of Education and Skills Development has also recorded a good number of teachers who have implicated in love relationships with students, while some are accused of impregnating students both in primary and secondary school. Regional education officers have been tasked to investigate such matters and are believed to be far from completion as some students are dragging their feet in assisting the investigations to be completed.
This year, Mmadinare Senior Secondary reportedly had the highest number of pregnancies, especially among form five students who were later forcibly expelled from school. Responding to this publicationâ€™s queries, Permanent Secretary to the Office of the President Emma Peloetletse said, â€śas you might be aware, I am currently addressing public servants across the length and breadth of our beautiful republic. Due to your detailed enquiry, I am not able to respond within your schedule,â€ť she said.
She said some of the issues raised need verification of facts, some are still under investigation while some are still before the courts of law.
Meanwhile, it is close to six months since the Police Commissioner Keabetwe Makgophe, Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo and the Deputy Director of the DIS Tefo Kgothane were suspended from their official duties on various charges.
Efforts to solicit comment from trade unions were futile at the time of going to press.
Some suspended officers who opted for anonymity claimed that they have close to two years while on suspension. One stated that the investigations that led him to be suspended have not been completed.
â€śIt is heartbreaking that at this time the investigations have not been completed,â€ť he toldÂ WeekendPost, adding that â€śwhen a person is suspended, they get their salary fully without fail until the matter is resolvedâ€ť.
Makgophe, Katlholo and Kgothane are the three most high-ranking government officials that are under interdiction.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and some senior government officials are abuzz with reports that President Mokgweetsi Masisi has requested his Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane not to contest the next general elections in 2024.
The impacts of climate change are increasing in frequency and intensity every year and this is forecast to continue for the foreseeable future. African CEOs in the Global South are finally coming to the party on how to tackle the crisis.
Following the completion of COP27 in Egypt recently, CEOs of Africa DFIs converged in Botswana for the CEO Forum of the Association of African Development Finance Institutions. One of the key themes was on green financing and building partnerships for resource mobilization in financing SDGs in Africa
A report; “Weathering the storm; African Development Banks response to Covid-19” presented shocking findings during the seminar. Among them; African DFI’s have proven to be financially resilient, and they are fast shifting to a green transition and it’s financing.
COO, CEDA, James Moribame highlighted that; “Everyone needs food, shelter and all basic needs in general, but climate change is putting the achievement of this at bay. “It is expensive for businesses to do business, for instance; it is much challenging for the agricultural sector due to climate change, and the risks have gone up. If a famer plants crops, they should be ready for any potential natural disaster which will cost them their hard work.”
According to Moribame, Start-up businesses will forever require help if there is no change.
“There is no doubt that the Russia- Ukraine war disrupted supply chains. SMMEs have felt the most impact as some start-up businesses acquire their materials internationally, therefore as inflation peaks, this means the exchange rate rises which makes commodities expensive and challenging for SMMEs to progress. Basically, the cost of doing business has gone up. Governments are no longer able to support DFI’s.”
Moribame shared remedies to the situation, noting that; “What we need is leadership that will be able to address this. CEOs should ensure companies operate within a framework of responsible lending. They also ought to scout for opportunities that would be attractive to investors, this include investors who are willing to put money into green financing. Botswana is a prime spot for green financing due to the great opportunity that lies in solar projects. ”
Technology has been hailed as the economy of the future and thus needs to be embraced to drive operational efficiency both internally and externally.
Executive Director, bank of Industry Nigeria, Simon Aranou mentioned that for investors to pump money to climate financing in Africa, African states need to be in alignment with global standards.
“Do what meets world standards if you want money from international investors. Have a strong risk management system. Also be a good borrower, if you have a loan, honour the obligation of paying it back because this will ensure countries have a clean financial record which will then pave way for easier lending of money in the future. African states cannot just be demanding for mitigation from rich countries. Financing needs infrastructure to complement it, you cannot be seating on billions of dollars without the necessary support systems to make it work for you. Domestic resource mobilisation is key. Use public money to mobilise private money.” He said.
For his part, the Minster of Minister of Entrepreneurship, Karabo Gare enunciated that, over the past three years, governments across the world have had to readjust their priorities as the world dealt with the effects and impact of the COVID 19 pandemic both to human life and economic prosperity.
“The role of DFIs, during this tough period, which is to support governments through countercyclical measures, including funding of COVID-19 related development projects, has become more important than ever before. However, with the increasingly limited resources from governments, DFIs are now expected to mobilise resources to meet the fiscal gaps and continue to meet their developmental mandates across the various affected sectors of their economies.” Said Gare.