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.
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.
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.
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.”