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Friday, 19 April 2024

P24 million tender lands BPC in court

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A local company, Drift In Investments (Pty) Ltd has dragged Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) before Justice Modiri Letsididi at Lobatse High Court. Through an urgent application, the company wants the state-owned power utility to show cause why certain orders should not be made final.

The Drift In Investments wants BPC to be ordered, interdicted and restrained from proceeding any further, with the award of tender no 4142/20 for various meters pending; the finalisation of the Applicant’s application for review of the respondent’s (BPC) decision to annul the tender and the finalisation of the Applicant’s application for review which awaits hearing.

In February this year, Drift In Investments submitted a bid to be awarded supply and delivery of single (1) phase and three (3) phase integrated GPS based STS prepayment smart meters with open standard communication protocols that was advertised as tender number 3890/19.
The tender in question was an open tender, which means all interested bidders could bid for it, including Drift In Investments.

The bid was duly evaluated and adjudicated by BPC’s procurement committee, the Executive Procurement and Tender Committee. Such evaluation and adjudication were preceded by the recommendations of the best evaluated bidder, who will proceed to sign a contract to offer such services.  According to Drift In Investments’ founding affidavit “attached hereto is a copy of the evaluation and adjudication report which placed the Applicant as the best bidder, hence the legitimate expectation, that mutatis muntandis, that it would sign the contract”.

Drift In Investments was the best bidder and was approved to be awarded to the tender at BWP 14 442 660, to supply and deliver a single phase split smart meters. Furthermore, Drift In Investments was awarded for the supply and delivery of Customer Interface Units (CIU’s) for an amount of P10 343 070.00.  “When these recommendations and approvals were to be effected, in a rather strange turn of events, the respondent somersaulted and nullified the tender. On minutes from the EXCO Procurement and Tender Committee, a request was made to the aforesaid committee to nullify the tender and bring it back as a selected tender,” court papers indicate.

The reasons stated were that the tender was cancelled because “the Corporation has taken a position to directly work with the reputable manufactures/ suppliers of smart meters that have the necessary expertise required in the implementation of a SMART GRID SOLUTION that the Corporation is embarking upon”.  The nullification was granted, and time was not wasted in listing the bidders for selective tendering. One of the listed bidders for manufactures/ suppliers of the split smart meters is Landis & Gyr which had been listed as the supplier to the Drift In Investments in the nullified tender.

BPC had commended the bid by Drift In because it had the above stated company (Landis & Gyr). “Drift In split smart meters sourced from Landis & Gyr have been supplied to BPC before and the performance is good. Besides the split smart meters, Landis & Gyr has got a good performance record also on the Maximum Demand (MD) meters and ordinary non smart meter BEC previously supplied to BPC for quite a number of years”.

According to the founding affidavit it came as a surprise then on the 22nd May 2020 when Drift In Investments was given a letter dated 18th May 2020 which corroborated the aforestated minutes that the said tenders were nullified.  The letter reads, “Please be advised that at its sitting of the 11th May 2020, the EXCO Procurement and Tender Committee approved the recommendation to nullify the above tender. We wish to take this opportunity to thank you for showing interest in doing business with the Corporation and assure you of our cooperation at all times”.

The founding affidavit contend that there were no basis whatsoever for cancelation of the tender which was floated publicly to a select tender when all the requirements had been met, only to turn around and chuck the bidders.  According the founding affidavit the cancellation was unlawful on the reason that; the procurement in BPC is done through a three tier system. It passes through evaluation, and the evaluation committee makes recommendations to the adjudication system, ultimately reaching the board for certain tenders.

Again there are various boards dealing with various tenders varying in the amounts. Each level of evaluation has a limit to the tender it can evaluate based on the value of the tender.  The present tender that the applicant is querying or had made a bid for, amounted to more than 10 million Pula. From its own admission, and the papers filed of record, the evaluation was carried out by the Executive Procurement and Tender Committee.

Drift In Investments also argues that in terms of the regulations of the Respondent of Procurement, the threshold for the Executive Procurement and Committee (EPTC) are amounts between P500 000.00 to P3.5 million.  The tender having been in excess of 10 million, the EPTC clearly stepped out of its mandate. It was not competent to deal with tender by adjudicating the same, therefore acting ultra vires their mandate/ authority.  “Such a decision is liable to be reviewed and set aside as it is unlawful, irrational and illegal.

I reiterate my averments further that save via this present Urgent Application, there is no facility under our law to obtain a stay execution of the Tender herein whilst the Application asserts its challenge against the adjudication of the same”.  While appearing before Justice Modiri Letsididi on few weeks ago, attorneys representing BPC from Armstrongs Attorneys said they were only served with court papers in the morning therefore pleaded with the court to be given some time to prepare and file their opposing affidavit.

Both lawyers met briefly and agree that it was short notice and that the court set a new date where the urgent matter and the review application will be heard.  Justice Modiri Letsididi advised that the new rule states that all matters dealing with tenders by nature are urgent because they are dealing with a lot of money that affects the economy.

Earlier on, BPC attorneys had urged that the tender in question is a different tender from the initial one something that was denied by the defence lawyers.  The matter has been ordered a status quo while the new dates were set for 6th November 2020 while the court will hear both the urgent matter and the review application.

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Nigerians, Zimbabweans apply for Chema Chema Fund

16th April 2024

Fronting activities, where locals are used as a front for foreign-owned businesses, have been a long-standing issue in Botswana. These activities not only undermine the government’s efforts to promote local businesses but also deprive Batswana of opportunities for economic empowerment, officials say. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has warned of heavy penalties for those involved in fronting activities especially in relation to the latest popular government initiative dubbed Chema Chema.

According to the Ministry, the Industrial Development Act of 2019 clearly outlines the consequences of engaging in fronting activities. The fines of up to P50,000 for first-time offenders and P20,000 plus a two-year jail term for repeat offenders send a strong message that the government is serious about cracking down on this illegal practice. These penalties are meant to deter individuals from participating in fronting activities and to protect the integrity of local industries.

“It is disheartening to hear reports of collaboration between foreigners and locals to exploit government initiatives such as the Chema Chema Fund. This fund, administered by CEDA and LEA, is meant to support informal traders and low-income earners in Botswana. However, when fronting activities come into play, the intended beneficiaries are sidelined, and the funds are misused for personal gain.” It has been discovered that foreign nationals predominantly of Zimbabwean and Nigerian origin use unsuspecting Batswana to attempt to access the Chema Chema Fund. It is understood that they approach these Batswana under the guise of drafting business plans for them or simply coming up with ‘bankable business ideas that qualify for Chema Chema.’

Observers say the Chema Chema Fund has the potential to uplift the lives of many Batswana who are struggling to make ends meet. They argue that it is crucial that these funds are used for their intended purpose and not siphoned off through illegal activities such as fronting. The Ministry says the warning it issued serves as a reminder to all stakeholders involved in the administration of these funds to ensure transparency and accountability in their disbursement.

One local commentator said it is important to highlight the impact of fronting activities on the local economy and the livelihoods of Batswana. He said by using locals as a front for foreign-owned businesses, opportunities for local entrepreneurs are stifled, and the economic empowerment of Batswana is hindered. The Ministry’s warning of heavy penalties is a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to eliminate fronting activities and promote a level playing field for local businesses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s warning of heavy penalties for fronting activities is a necessary step to protect the integrity of local industries and promote economic empowerment for Batswana. “It is imperative that all stakeholders comply with regulations and work towards a transparent and accountable business environment. By upholding the law and cracking down on illegal activities, we can ensure a fair and prosperous future for all Batswana.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.

 

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