Integrity in Development Projects: African Development Bank and Sinohydro have reached a settlement agreement on fraudulent practices. Sinohydro Corporation has agreed to a comprehensive verification of its compliance program by the African Development Bank following the detection of a fraudulent practice in tendering for works contracts in Uganda.
Sinohydro has been awarded contracts in Botswana before and had a protracted conflict with the Botswana Government over the construction of the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport. The project was marred in controversy due to cost overruns, delays and technical glitches.
On June 15th, 2017, the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) announced the conclusion of a settlement agreement with Sinohydro Corporation. An investigation conducted by the AfDB’s Office of Integrity and Anti-Corruption established that Sinohydro Corporation engaged in a fraudulent practice in bidding for works contracts in the context of the AfDB-financed Road Sector Support Project in Uganda.
As part of the settlement, the AfDB imposes a conditional non-debarment for a period of three years, subject to the company enhancing its global corporate compliance program within that period to the institution’s full satisfaction. The AfDB will verify the adequacy of Sinohydro Corporation’s compliance framework and the robustness of its implementation prior to any release decision.
In addition, Sinohydro Corporation committed to cooperate with the Office of Integrity and Anti-Corruption in its investigations of unrelated cases of misconduct in AfDB-financed projects. The period of conditional non-debarment may be reduced to 24 months if Sinohydro Corporation complies with all conditions of the agreement early.
“The purpose of the Bank’s sanctions regime is in equal measures the deterrence of sanctionable practices such as fraud and corruption and the rehabilitation of entities found to have engaged in such”, says Anna Bossman, Director of the AfDB Office of Integrity and Anti-Corruption. “Engaging with companies and ensuring the implementation of robust corporate compliance safeguards is key to avoid recidivism”.
In 2013, Sinohydro Corporation is said to have participated in a tender for works contracts under the Bank-financed Road Sector Support Project in Uganda. The investigation by the Office of Integrity and Anti-Corruption found that Sinohydro Corporation misrepresented its prior project experience by using not yet successfully and substantially completed contracts as references.
The Office of Integrity and Anti-Corruption of the African Development Bank Group is responsible for preventing, deterring and investigating allegations of corruption, fraud and other sanctionable practices in Bank Group-financed operations. The investigation by the Office of Integrity and Anti-Corruption of the African Development Bank was conducted by Mohamed KONNEH and Esther Lynn MHONE. African Development Bank staff and the general public can use the Office of Integrity and Anti-Corruption secured hotlines to report sanctionable practices within the Bank or operations financed by the Bank Group.
Since 2006, investment from China has rapidly increased in Africa. According to a World Bank report in 2008, most of the Chinese investment goes to the infrastructure sector, mostly hydropower, railroad, and telecommunications. The hydropower projects are widely blamed for negative impacts on local community and natural environment.
SINOHYDRO AND BOTSWANA GOVERNMENT
Fed up with continual delays and deadline setbacks, the Botswana Government has decided to fire the primary contractor on Gaborone's Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSKIA) Expansion Project Phase 2, Chinese state construction firm Sinohydro, with 95% of the works completed.
â€¨At some point Sinohydro has been paying daily fines amounting to BWP1.7million (USD$220'000) as a result of the delays in completion, which should have taken in place in June of 2010. Despite assurances given to then Minister of Infrastructure, Science and Technology (MIST) Johnnie Swartz during an on-site inspection in April that the project would be ready for hand over by July 2012 at the latest, it seems the firm was not able to keep its promises which ultimately led to the termination of its contract.â€¨â€¨Sinohydro however, disputed the validity of the Ministry's reason for termination of contract, stating that Government payment delays, constant redesigns and additional works were to blame for Phase 2's delays and escalating costs.
Sinohydro also held the reigns during Phase 1 of the project, which also suffered massive deadline setbacks, with its completion date having been pushed back from October 2009 to March 2010 much to the Botswana Government's irritation. At the time of termination of the contract, Sinohydro had completed approximately 90 percent of the project and had been paid about P527 million. MIST Permanent Secretary, Dikagiso Mokotedi had told the Public Accounts Committee that Government’s rushed tendering process for the expansion of the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSKI) was the major factor that led to poor management of the project and its subsequent delays. â€¨
This century is always looking at improving new super high speed technology to make life easier. On the other hand, beckoning as an emerging fierce reversal force to equally match or dominate this life enhancing super new tech, comes swift human adversaries which seem to have come to make living on earth even more difficult.
The recent discovery of a pandemic, Covid-19, which moves at a pace of unimaginable and unpredictable proportions; locking people inside homes and barring human interactions with its dreaded death threat, is currently being felt.
Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo has cautioned Government against excessive borrowing and poorly managed debt levels.
He was speaking in Parliament on Tuesday delivering Parliament’s Finance Committee report after assessing a motion that sought to raise Government Bond program ceiling to P30 billion, a big jump from the initial P15 Billion.
Government Investment Account (GIA) which forms part of the Pula fund has been significantly drawn down to finance Botswana’s budget deficits since 2008/09 Global financial crises.
The 2009 global economic recession triggered the collapse of financial markets in the United States, sending waves of shock across world economies, eroding business sentiment, and causing financiers of trade to excise heightened caution and hold onto their cash.
The ripple effects of this economic catastrophe were mostly felt by low to middle income resource based economies, amplifying their vulnerability to external shocks. The diamond industry which forms the gist of Botswana’s economic make up collapsed to zero trade levels across the entire value chain.
The Upstream, where Botswana gathers much of its diamond revenue was adversely impacted by muted demand in the Midstream. The situation was exacerbated by zero appetite of polished goods by jewelry manufacturers and retail outlets due to lowered tail end consumer demand.
This resulted in sharp decline of Government revenue, ballooned budget deficits and suspension of some developmental projects. To finance the deficit and some prioritized national development projects, government had to dip into cash balances, foreign reserves and borrow both externally and locally.
Much of drawing was from Government Investment Account as opposed to drawing from foreign reserve component of the Pula Fund; the latter was spared as a fiscal buffer for the worst rainy days.
Consequently this resulted in significant decline in funds held in the Government Investment Account (GIA). The account serves as Government’s main savings depository and fund for national policy objectives.
However as the world emerged from the 2009 recession government revenue graph picked up to pre recession levels before going down again around 2016/17 owing to challenges in the diamond industry.
Due to a number of budget surpluses from 2012/13 financial year the Government Investment Account started expanding back to P30 billion levels before a series of budget deficits in the National Development Plan 11 pushed it back to decline a decline wave.
When the National Development Plan 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at budget deficits.
This as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.
Cumulatively since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances. Drawing down from government cash balances meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account.
The Government Investment Account (GIA) was established in accordance with Section 35 of the Bank of Botswana Act Cap. 55:01. The Account represents Government’s share of the Botswana‘s foreign exchange reserves, its investment and management strategies are aligned to the Bank of Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves management and investment guidelines.
Government Investment Account, comprises of Pula denominated deposits at the Bank of Botswana and held in the Pula Fund, which is the long-term investment tranche of the foreign exchange reserves.
In June 2017 while answering a question from Bogolo Kenewendo, the then Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Mathambo told parliament that as of June 30, 2017, the total assets in the Pula Fund was P56.818 billion, of which the balance in the GIA was P30.832 billion.
Kenewendo was still a back bench specially elected Member of Parliament before ascending to cabinet post in 2018. Last week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, when presenting a motion to raise government local borrowing ceiling from P15 billion to P30 Billion told parliament that as of December 2019 Government Investment Account amounted to P18.3 billion.
Dr Matsheka further told parliament that prior to financial crisis of 2008/9 the account amounted to P30.5 billion (41 % of GDP) in December of 2008 while as at December 2019 it stood at P18.3 billion (only 9 % of GDP) mirroring a total decline by P11 billion in the entire 11 years.
Back in 2017 Parliament was also told that the Government Investment Account may be drawn-down or added to, in line with actuations in the Government’s expenditure and revenue outturns. “This is intended to provide the Government with appropriate funds to execute its functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently” said Mathambo, then Minister of Finance.
Acknowledging the need to draw down from GIA no more, current Minister of Finance Dr Matsheka said “It is under this background that it would be advisable to avoid excessive draw down from this account to preserve it as a financial buffer”
He further cautioned “The danger with substantially reduced financial buffers is that when an economic shock occurs or a disaster descends upon us and adversely affects our economy it becomes very difficult for the country to manage such a shock”