TROUBLED SSKA: Government has been ordered to deposit money into a fund that will be used to settle claims.
Judge Michael Leburu of the Lobatse High Court on Wednesday ordered the Government to deposit a sum of P43 319 326.29 into an Escrow account agreed by both parties that would be solely used to reimburse the government for any claims against Sinohydro in the construction of a new terminal building at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport in Gaborone.
The Chinese contractor was employed to render services for the expansion and refurbishment of Sir Seretse Khama International Airport but the contractor and the Government of Botswana agreement of contract fell off the rails unceremoniously last year over shoddy workmanship and delay in the project.
When passing the judgment, Judge Leburu relied mostly on the Dispute Adjudication Board (DAB) Sub – Clauses agreement that were mutually created by the Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology (MIST) and Sinohydro to settle disputes between the parties that the government did not abide by as per the applicants’ filing.
“In terms of clause 20.4, if a dispute arises between the parties in connection with, or arising out of the contract or the execution of the works, including any dispute as to any certificate, determination, instruction, opinion or valuation of the engineer, either party may refer the dispute in writing to the DAB for its decision with copies to the other party and the engineer,” said Judge Leburu.
The Judge also observed that if any party was dissatisfied with the decision of the DAB, such a party was entitled to provide a notice of dissatisfaction within 28 days of the decision, failing which the decision would be final and binding.
“It is common cause that the respondent (MIST) did not issue a notice of dissatisfaction with the DAB’s decision with regard to the opening of and depositing of the funds into an escrow account with a financial institution,” Judge Leburu clarified.
The Ministry of Infrastructure Science and Technology (MIST) through its attorney, Mr. C. Gulubane in their response to the application indicated that Sinohydro had failed to exhaust the contractual dispute resolution mechanism available to it before going to court, and that there was a dispute pending before the ICC that incorporates performance bond that was brought before the Lobatse High Court.
On dismissing these submissions, Judge Leburu said, “On the basis of the aforegoing, it was therefore open for the applicant to invoke other rights it had by approaching this court to seek redress and enforce an arbitral award.”
It was also brought before court that Sinohydro was dissatisfied with certain portions of the DAB’s decision that the termination of contract by MIST was valid, thus giving such notice of dissatisfaction to DAB. The matter was referred for international arbitration at the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the said arbitration is still pending.
P527 MILLION WAS PAID TO SINOHYDRO The Chinese construction company-Sinohydro was contracted to build a state of the art terminal and expand the airport’s runway in compliance with IATA standards. At the time, the government’s plan was for the airport to accommodate more passengers especially towards the World Cup in 2010.
The tender was fast tracked and Sinohydro was given from June 10, 2008 to May 11, 2010 to complete the expansion of the P433-million project. But the completion of the project was halted as the Ministry led by Minister Johnnie Swartz terminated Sinohydro’s contract in July 2011 as there had been major faults identified in the project and failure to meet the targeted deadline despite several extensions.
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€¨
He revealed that the project was started even before the design was complete in a rush to finish it before the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
BOTSWANA/CHINA BILATERAL RELATIONS According to a report authored in 2009 on China’s Role in Infrastructure Development in Botswana, bilateral trade between the two countries surged from nearly zero 30 years ago to $52.4 million in 2004, $69 million in 2006 and $149 million in 2007.
With China becoming the second largest luxury diamond consumer in the world, importing $1.66 billion worth of diamonds in 2004, trade volumes between the two countries would surely increase should China be allowed to import diamonds directly from Botswana.
China’s total imports from Botswana surged from $8.1 million in 2006 to $26 million in 2007, while China’s export to Botswana increased from $61 million in 2006 to $118 million in 2007. Although no detailed trade breakdowns can be sourced, the upward import trend and the surging figures correspond with Chinese construction companies’ footprint in Botswana.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) has indicated concern about the ongoing trend where the general public falls victim to criminals purporting to be police officers.
According to BPS Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, the criminals target individuals at shopping malls and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where upon approaching the unsuspecting individual the criminals would pretend to have picked a substantial amount of money and they would make a proposal to the victims that the money is counted and shared in an isolated place.
“On the way, as they stop at the isolated place, they would start to count and sharing of the money, a criminal syndicate claiming to be Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer investigating a case of stolen money will approach them,” said Motube in a statement.
The Commissioner indicated that the fake police officers would instruct the victims to hand over all the cash they have in their possession, including bank cards and Personal Identification Number (PIN), the perpetrators would then proceed to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.
Motube also revealed that they are also investigating a case in which a 69 year old Motswana woman from Molepolole- who is a victim of the scam- lost over P62 000 last week Friday to the said perpetrators.
“The Criminal syndicate introduced themselves as CID officers investigating a case of robbery where a man accompanying the woman was the suspect.’’
They subsequently went to the woman’s place and took cash amounting to over P12 000 and further swindled amount of P50 000 from the woman’s bank account under the pretext of the further investigations.
In addition, Motube said they are currently investigating the matter and therefore warned the public to be vigilant of such characters and further reminds the public that no police officer would ask for bank cards and PINs during the investigations.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership walked out of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting this week on account of being targeted by other cooperating partners.
UDC meet for the first time since 2020 after previous futile attempts, but the meeting turned into a circus after other members of the executive pushed for BCP to explain its role in media statements that disparate either UDC and/or contracting parties.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), Tymon Katlholo’s spirited fight against the contentious transfers of his management team has forced the Office of the President to rescind the controversial decision. However, some insiders suggest that the reversal of the transfers may have left some interested parties with bruised egos and nursing red wounds.
The transfers were seen by observers as a badly calculated move to emasculate the DCEC which is seen as defiant against certain objectionable objectives by certain law enforcement agencies – who are proven decisionists with very little regard for the law and principle.