A Special Audit on the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry (MITI) Lease Office Block at the Central Business District (CBD) has revealed that the Ministry failed to follow due process when acquiring the office and has in fact paid over P2 million to the property owner before signing a Lease agreement on 4th December 2012.
The audit team has recommended that the accounting officers who signed off the cheques to the owner of the building should pay back the money. Examination of records revealed that rental payments for October and November 2012 were paid before the lease agreement was signed on 4th December 2012. It was further revealed that the rental payments were made six months in advance and no justification was given.
Further records indicate that the tender was adjudicated by the Ministerial Tender Committee (MTC) despite the threshold being above P25 000 000. 00 which was then approved threshold. This then indicated that the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) was not involved. The audit team established that the adjudication for a tender worth P60 784 200.00 by the Ministry MTC was not procedural as it was above the MTC threshold.
According to documents supplied by the Audit team, the Procurement Unit personnel were interviewed to establish why the unit failed to advise MTC on proper procurement process and the response was that the Procurement of the Acquisition of the Office Space in CBD plot No 543380 did not originate from its office.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
In 2011 the then Ministry of trade and Industry (MTI) now the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry (MITI) took a decision to procure office accommodation for the Ministry headquarters and its five departments so as to reduce costs, enhance operational efficiency and improve service delivery to customers. “The Ministry searched for a suitable accommodation and identified an office block in the CBD, Gaborone, which was recommended by the Ministerial Tender Committee (MTC) for rental, on the advice of the Ministry of Lands and Housing.”
According to the Audit team, the MTC approved the request on the 14th February 2012 and the Lease Agreement was signed in December 2012 for a period of 5 years ending in November 2017, at a monthly rental of P1, 013, 070.00 excluding VAT. This translates to an annual rental of P13, 615, 656.00 and accumulatively, P60, 784, 200.00 for the whole lease period.
Alberta Construction and Engineering Pty Ltd was awarded the tender for the Lease of Office Block situated at plot 54380 at P80/sg.m plus 60 surface parking bays at P250/bay and 75 basement parking at P450/bay per month. The audit examination uncovered some inconsistencies as some critical documents such as ITT, Evaluation report, PPADB form 3 were not availed. The only document that was availed was the Adjudication Summary report dated 26th August 2011.
It also surfaced during the audit that the method of tendering was a Direct Appointment type of procuring, upon inquiry it transpired that the tender was not floated to allow for competitive bidding, revealed the audit. “The client flouted existing PPADB guidelines when procuring office space and this can be attributed to failure to seek advice from relevant procuring personnel. Direct type of procurement method denies other bidders a chance to compete and may create opportunities for corrupt practices and increases potential for disputes by other bidders.”
The Ministry management is of the view that by sending out a “Ministerial Technical Unit to search for an office space” they were following procedure. The MITI management has been warned by the audit team to always adhere to PPADB guidelines and regulations with regard to procurement process to avoid increase in disputes by other bidders. MITI management claimed inexperience and ignorance hence the contentious award to Alberta Construction Pty Ltd. The MITI management claimed that the adjudication was based on the recurrent budget figure – on annual basis. They further stated that the PPADB Act does not explicitly say how the tender should be adjudicated.
THE EYE POPS IN THE LEASE AGREEMENT
The Lease Agreement which was signed on 4th December 2011 but the rental negotiations were concluded in August 2011 and the Ministry only relocated in March 2013. The Audit team observed that the MITI has taken more than a year to sign the lease after the conclusion of the rental negotiations. Upon inquiry on the time taken, it emerged that the identified building was still under construction and the MITI booked it, hence had to wait for it to be completed.
“The MITI’s long wait can be attributed to lack of accountability by the responsible officers. Due care on the construction of the building could have been compromised just to beat the deadline of the handing over of the complete structure,” observed the audit team. Despite awarding the tender as a Direct Appointment, the Ministry management claims that the acquired building was the only one suitable for the MITI as other plots were smaller in size and the other one was too expensive.
The audit team further established that the Lease Agreement states that the rental shall be payable to the lessor quarterly in advance in the months of January, April, July and October in the year. However examinations revealed the rental payments of P6, 488, 471. 65 for six months effecting October 2012 and ending March 2013 was paid in December 2012. There was another payment in March 2013 of P7, 942, 468.80 for seven months effecting April to October 2013. The audit team established that MITI contravened the lease agreement, a situation that could lead to legal complications should there be a dispute.
When asked to account for the violation of the terms of the Lease Agreement, management indicated that they wanted to pay rent when the funds were still available so that they are covered since they did not want to run the risk of defaulting the rentals. The MITI wants the Department of Land to prepare an addendum indicating that the building was handed to them (MITI) in October 2012 not December 2012, a request the Public Accounts Committee finds perplexing.
While concluding that the procurement process was flouted when tendering for the MITI office block and that the PPADB was not involved in the procurement of the office space, the audit has strongly suggested that the rentals paid outside the lease agreement for the months of October and November 2012 should be accounted for by the concerned officers since the Lease Agreement was signed on 4th December 2012 by Principal State Counsel, Onthatile Moagisi Mosiieman and Houshang Mazidi of Alberta Construction Engineering Pty Ltd.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.