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P24 million tender lands BPC in court

Acting BPC CEO: Edward Rugoyi

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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