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.
In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.