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BPC declares P11 billion Morupule B power plant ‘unreliable’

Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) has finally stopped playing to the gallery and conceded that the most expensive project ever undertaken in Botswana spurning to 11 billion being Morupule B “is suffering from construction defects which need to be addressed.”

The pronouncement comes at a time Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources (MMEWR) Kitso Mokaila’ s gone-wax-lyrical on the matter. The Minister had several times spoke in carefully loaded terms about the misgivings that engulfed the power plant and his timing and deadline missed the boat more than twice.  

It is understood that a Gap Analysis Review of the multi-billion pula power station was carried out and completed in December 2014 to determine measures to address the construction defects which have rendered the plant unreliable.

The defects remediation status illustrates that the major issues to be addressed at the 600 MW expansion of BPC’s then sole existing power station of Morupule A – were identified in the “boilers” and solutions to address these issues are now on the offing.

To get their ducks in a row, BPC officials say the defects will be remedied by qualified contractors and with good quality material and equipment from reputable suppliers. “The implementation of remedial measures is estimated to take up to 3 Years,” Nchena Z. Mothebe, the BPC Director Transmission has said this week in Gaborone.
BPC through a 4th annual key customer seminar initiated to interact with and engage its business clientele, says they have kept their fingers on the pulse and are working on the implementation of the measures to improve plant reliability and provide full output of the plant.

According to the Director in the Transmission department, 2 of 4 units are currently in operation at Morupule B. Unit 1 and 3 are currently in operation while unit 2 is expected to be back in service by mid-December. Unit 4 is on statutory outage till mid-January 2016, he assured the gathering which was comprised of various business kingpins including Manager of Phakalane suburban area Lesang Magang who expressed reservations about power outages and late bills as well as how they literally do no function in the absence of power transmission especially to their heartbeat business of the Phakalane Golf Estate.

In addition more investors at the gathering, who thronged the meeting in decent numbers and seemingly looked stressed out as the discussions pondered on, have narrated different stories of how their profits has hit an all-time-low due to inconsistent and unannounced power cuts.  

This is also believed to hamper the roll-out of the newly much talked about Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) – a government initiative aimed at motivating the economy for more growth. Reliable power supply was seen as an enabler to implementation of ESP and failing which will be dire domino-effect.  

Morupule B was well-thought-out as an upshot of the country’s worryingly reliance on importing approximately 80% of its power from neighbouring South Africa’s power giant Eskom which was reduced in subsequent recent years due to power crisis at the country as well.

It was said that the contract between Eskom and BPC involving the 300mw (when available) “will be extended from January 2016 to December 2018.” In addition the country also extracts between 20 to 100mw from Mozambique in which 20mw is available during peak hours.

However the BPC hands-on official stated that the regional power supply deficit will make “firm regional agreements difficult.” Weekend Post understands that due to mismanagement by the plant contractor China National Electric Equipment Corporation (CNEEC) which wielded deferrals of the project spiraling beyond the targeted 2012 and use of substandard material – the initially engaged CNEEC later fell out with government.

Consequently a German company, STEAG Energy Services was awarded by MMEWR Minister Mokaila (and government) to take over the project which entailed the maintenance and operation services at the Power Station. Meanwhile this publication has learnt that nonetheless the defects still persists.

With regard to Morupule A refurbishment project, the corporation has also updated on Wednesday that they have identified a contractor to carry out major overhauls of Units 1, 2 and 4 and refurbishment of Unit 3.

“Upfront project preparatory works were commenced in October 2015 while BPC is negotiating a contract for refurbishing Morupule A with the preferred bidder,” they stated.

The Morupule A project signposts that there will be sections 1 to 4 and each will churn out 30MW which will be commercially operational by October 2016. Only section 4 will trail in the succeeding year in October 2017. All the sections in Morupule A are projected to reach a total capacity of 120MW.

Morupule A was mothballed in October 2012, and so far the transactional advisors have been appointed, and limited notice to proceed signed with EPC contractor.

More projects to curb power crisis

In addition the beleaguered corporation’s renewal energy projects comprise solar thermal which has a capacity of 100MW and are targeted to be operationalized by 2017/18. Expressions of

Interests for the project are being evaluated after 118 bids were received following the closing date on August 2015.

According to BPC executives, another project involving renewable energy is awaiting cabinet approval for a go-ahead and it involves 75mw.

Other projects on the pipeline include IPP Brown Field which is directed for conclusion in 2018/19 and predicted to supply 300mw, as well as a project of IPP Green field involving 300mw and to be finalised in 2020/21.

Fresh information suggests that the Public Procurement  and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB)  has given nod to government request  to award Owners Engineer contract for greenfield energy project as BPC moves to plug the energy gap. The Owner Engineer will overlook the addition of 2 more units at Morupule namely 5 and 6. The complex currently has 6 units after the addition of 4 units at Morupule B which is struggling to work at full capacity.

BPC warns power supply still on the red light

BPC has emphasized that the power supply situation in the country will remain precarious till 2018/19 when:
1. Morupule A Power Station will be fully refurbished (by end of 2017)
2. Morupule B Power Station remedial maintenance will be done (2018 end)
3. Morupule B 5 & 6 Power Station to be commissioned by 2018/19
 

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Civil Service volatility: Democracy vs Bureaucracy

19th April 2021
President Masisi

Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.

These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.

The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”

The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.

“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”

Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.

The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.

Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.

One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.

But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.

One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.

Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.

In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.

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Morupisi fights for freedom in court

19th April 2021
morupisi

Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.

Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.

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Pressure mounts on Biden to suspend Covid-19 vaccine patents

19th April 2021
Joe Biden

United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.

According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.

“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.

A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.

Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.

In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”

While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.

Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility.  Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.

For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies.  European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.

It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.

According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.

The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.

“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”

“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.”
The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”

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