A plot by Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security who doubles as Member of Parliament for Lobatse, Advocate Sadique Kebonang, is allegedly working in cohorts with Lobatse Town Council (LTC) under the mayor-ship of Malebogo Kruger, to influence the leasing of the town bus rank.
At the time of going to print, the lease was at adjudication process, but the political wing of the Council was abuzz with allegations that all stakes were high for one preferred company (name withheld) to undertake the mega project of building the mall at the site. Kebonang is said to be desperately trying to tilt the scales for selfish ends in this matter.
“The project will be allocated to this particular company because of its association with the area MP and Minister. The awarding of the tender is expected any time soon,” Lobatse Town Councillor for Tsopeng North, Gofaone Kedise, leveled the allegations in a recent interview.
The Council has drafted tender notice and invitation to tender, tender data, standardized condition of tender for the development of the mall and already five companies have tendered. Information reaching this publication suggests that the tender is a restricted internal tender to only five companies and other companies are out of bound to tender.
Reasons for considering only the five is said to be that they have applied before, and at the time of going for press the tenders for the five have been submitted and awaiting adjudication results. The restricted companies for the mall include Star Petroleum (Pty) Ltd, EMRE (Pty) Ltd, KIP (Pty) Ltd, DSP (Pty) Ltd, and Botanka and company.
Councillor Kedise mentioned that out of the five restricted companies bidding for the tender, the four others are just used as pawns to appear like there is an element of transparency. Further, information turned down by this publication suggest that in 2014 February, Kebonang announced at a kgotla meeting that they will be a company to be revealed in due process that will construct the shopping center. Allegedly, it was before Civic leaders knew about where the mall will be built.
However, Kebonang has dismissed suggestions that he is a shareholder in one of the companies bidding for the tender and stressed that he also has no influence in the tendering process, but has interest in it in his capacity only as area MP: “The process is fair and transparent. As an MP, I also talk to many people to come invest in Lobatse but I have no personal interest at all to tilt scales in the tender.”
The Lobatse lawmaker insisted on his support for the erection of the new mall since it will bring developments, create employment, and arouse economic activity to his constituency. He emphasised that there is no alternative plot to construct the mall and hence they used the bus rank space. He did admit however that he is aware about the discontentment by some. He underscored that developments come with inconvenience but at the end the benefits outweighs the inconvenience.
The new shopping centre is said to be enrooted to contradict the grander development plan for the town, dubbed Lobatse Regeneration Scheme. In the scheme the disposition was to upgrade the existing mall as is. Lobatse Regeneration Scheme has already been funded at the tune of 2 billion pula by the government but Lobatse legislator, Kebonang and LTC appears to have bypassed the grand initiative by moving to erect the mall at the bus rank.
The new-fangled mall will be instituted right on the same bus rank plot 333 under supposedly a Public Private Partnership (PPP) agreement. It will be constructed in an open area of approximately 1.2 hectares which contributes to the 3.36 hectares of the area in totality. According to the Tsopeng North ward Councillor, Kedise, many proposals were submitted to the Council before, with one by Cambridge Investments (Pty) Ltd who possessed the much needed land and just wanted to meet the Council to sign the Memorandum of Understanding, but were made to wait and rejected.
Further, the new development is expected to take its toll on the informal sector and small business people at the existing bus rank as they will be most disadvantaged and displaced. “The informal sector will be seriously affected by this. The mall near the bus rank will also be negatively affected. The PPP takes its toll on the public because it displaces bus rank and the informal sector but only a few will benefit,” Kedise highlighted.
But, Lobatse Mayor, Malebogo Kruger, confirmed that the Council will indeed lease the land to what she termed “deserving” investors under PPP arrangement through a transparent tendering process. She said as the Council they support the building of the new mall at the earmarked plot at bus rank despite numerous objections. “We initiated and support the project. We are bringing developments in the form of the new mall. Land belongs to the Council and we are leasing it out to serious investors,” she pointed out briefly.
But Councillor Kedise’s concern is that, as far back as 2007, the Council never advised the many applicants who wished to build malls in other areas of the town about the availability of land at the bus rank. The Council had been rejecting such application in recent years. “We want the developments like the mall, but we want them clean,” lamented Kedise. He further observed that “we are also conjecturing why ‘all incorporating’ Lobatse Regeneration Scheme was overlooked and the new mall preferred.”
He reminisced that sometime in 2011, Councillor Rosemary Bosilong, moved a motion to the effect “that the Lobatse plantation plot be allocated as one plot for the development of commercial sector.” The motion then passed but however the Council sat on it. The motion was necessitated by a demand by a number of companies whom also wanted to build a mall at the area.
It is also said that another company had wanted to build the mall at the Lobatse old stadium plot not far from Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) headquarters – but were both turned down on unclear reasons. On the 29th September 2011, there was also a motion at LTC moved by the then Boswelatlou Councillor, Zubeida Raphael, with the intention to request that Lobatse old stadium plot no. 1890 Civic centre/community be turned into a commercial plot. The motion was however defeated with the reasons that the area is already developed and it cannot be changed.
Some companies from South Africa had also wanted to build a state of the art mall at the same old Lobatse stadium of the similar magnitude as of Olimpia stadium in Rustenburg, inclusive of tennis court and other sporting course grounds as well as the mall itself. Indications suggest that the Department of Lands, Town and Regional Planning in Gaborone then cautioned the town Council against submitting peace-meal plans. Instead they advised the Council to compose the Lobatse Regeneration Scheme which is ‘all encompassing.’
Before then, it is understood that some companies also came on board with endeavors to request Council to grant them leeway to build the mall in an area adjacent to Lobatse Town Park but were turned down. Meanwhile Ex Lobatse legislator, Nehemiah Modubule also expressed disapproval of the mall as he smells conspiracy between the incumbent town law maker, Kebonang and the investors of the mall.
He said Lobatse community was only informed of the move and not necessarily ‘consulted.’ Modubule was worried about the informal sector in terms of where they will be placed. According to the former MP, Lobatse does not need a mall but an economic development plan to grow the economy of the town. “There is high unemployment in Lobatse, if they build the mall, who will buy in these malls? Lobatse need industries to attract influx of people to work on those firms,” Modubule pointed out.
He said rumours suggest that Kebomang has shares in the mall and that is why he has been pushing the project so hard to make it see the light of the day. He said while at parliament, he initiated and moved a motion on the formation of Lobatse Economic Diversification Unit (LOBEDU) which is similar to Selebi Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU) which only needs implementation.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.