Two public road works completed recently, have attracted the attention of the Office of the Auditor General after the cost overruns amounted to over P320 million.
The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament last week, held value for money audits, in the process questioning the cost overruns where The Department of Roads is said to have over expended P300 million in two road projects that were completed recently.
The Western bypass-Metsimotlhabe road project which was initially priced at about P400 million ended up costing the ministry about P644 million. While the Gaborone-Tlokweng border gate road was estimated at about P376 million but ended up drawing more than P454 million from the government coffers.
In both projects, the consultancy fees doubled from initial contract cost to final cost with, Tloweng road consultancy fees raking in P20,1 million from P9,8 million while the Western bypass-Metsimotlhabe road fees reached P21 million from the initial P8,9 million.
PAC members were uncomfortable with the use of consulting engineers who design and then go on to supervise road works.
While the parliamentary committee would have liked to see some segregation of roles in the projects, the accounting officer at the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Permanent Secretary, Goitsemang Morekisi said that: “When the one who designed the road works, does not supervise the project, the new supervisor will in turn, say that they did not design it and will not accept responsibility or they will also want to make changes to the designs; so it is a challenge there. But we are not saying that it is not possible for roads designed by one to be supervised by another.”
In an interview with BusinessPost, Morekisi, said that as a Ministry, they acknowledge that cost overruns of projects have been a concern, but the advice from the Office of the Auditor General, is already helping to define and tighten processes.
“It is about expertise in the design stage,” adding that, “We do not want to crowd out the private sector; what we need to do is that our staff supervises the supervising contractors,”
The PAC (Public Accounts Committee) felt that consulting engineers were in a position to delay projects and stretch their earnings.
“Rather than to have our own people there, we should have only one engineer on site supervising say 30 people at the works,” said Morekisi.
“The engineer recommends to the Roads department, if there is need for a review of contract pricing, that is why we are saying that we as the permanent secretaries will now be involved in approving these reviews; that is where we have been lacking and the audit has advised that we tighten up there,” said Morekisi. She admitted that internal processes often delay projects from the design stage to the implementation stages.
In future, consultants will be held to account for cost overruns, Morekisi affirmed.
Morekisi said there are other factors that contributed to cost overruns including the raising of value added tax from 10 to 12 percent as well as the intermittent workers strikes in neighbouring South Africa that affect timely procurement of materials.
“Because of the strikes that happened in South Africa, we had problems in getting bitumen from that side and that also contributed to the escalation of prices,” Morekisi noted that the parliamentary committee emphasised the need to review cost projections of projects that were on hold, after the global recession hit, as there will be a need to adjust for inflation. This is meant to avoid distortion of project price projections that add to cost overruns.
MOHEMBO AND KAZUNGULA
The long planned Mohembo Bridge on the North Western tip of Botswana, had good social benefits but the economic value was difficult to justify for financiers. “Looking at the social benefits of the Bridge which will connect some villages such as Seronga, with others, we looked at how we can scale down the designs and make it more affordable and now it will be going to tender,” said permanent secretary, Morekisi. The 1162 metre bridge will be the longest in the southern Africa region when completed.
“The Kazungula Bridge project consists of three parts; the bridge, the Botswana side and the Zambian side.”
“While Zambia can get concessionary financing from the likes of African Development Bank, we as a middle income country had to access funding from JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency),” said Morekisi.
“During the opening of tenders, there were three companies that satisfied the tender requirements for the final shortlist, a Korean company, a Chinese company and a Japanese company,” she explained.
“There was a seven month delay, when the Japanese insisted on the disqualification of the other companies, even when they satisfied the criteria.”
Construction of the much anticipated P1.4 billion Kazungula Bridge is also expected to get under after delays due to financing. With the start of National Development Plan 11 next year, the construction will get under, said Morekisi. The project was meant to start early in 2015 after the two hosting countries, Botswana and Zambia, signed a contract agreement with the contractor, Daewoo Engineering and Construction.
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.