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Gov’t moves to remove courts from tender disputes

Wilfred-Mandlebe

Never again shall public projects with allocated funds be delayed on the account of one of the bidder(s) contending the outcome of the tender adjudication process. This was revealed by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance & Economic Development Dr Wilfred Mandlebe recently.

Appearing before the Parliament Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Dr Mandlebe said government will be approaching this winter session parliament sitting to court lawmakers into amending the Public Procurement & Asset Disposal Act with a view to enable awarded contracts to proceed regardless of any legal dispute or whatsoever.

“We want it to be in the act that as soon as the contract is awarded the contractor mobilizes to site and commences the work, all those contending the outcome will not be able to stop the project,” Dr Mandlebe told PAC members.

The Permanent Secretary was responding to PAC committee chair –  Keorapetse’s concerns that government was incurring costs on delayed project implementation because bidders we still at logger heads.

“We are incurring costs emanating from disputed tenders where contractors who have not won bids seek redress from the courts, I know there is very little you can do because of these people’s legal right to seek redress, but there should be something that we can do on efficiency of government in so far as adjudication of tenders is concerned,” he said.

The Committee Chair who is also Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West implored government to expedite addressing the issue because the public was suffering at the hands of halted national projects on the account of tendering processes that are still engulfed by ligation and legal battles.

“There should be something we can do to deal with this problem of unending disputes; we are witnessing appeals to tender committees, at ministerial level, even at councils, and some  issues end up at court while the country or the community that was supposed to benefit from the said project continue to suffer, this thing is a pandemic,” said Keorapetse.

When responding Permanent Secretary Dr Mandlebe whose ministry houses the Public Procurement Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) said the issue was indeed a matter of concern.

“Indeed it’s a pandemic, we are not happy about it at all, but as a law abiding country, the law as it is now, sorts of allows for this kind of characters, some of them rush to court for no reason, I can quote a number of projects where these defeated contractors were just playing delay tactics.”

Dr Mandlebe revealed that his ministry will be tabling the revised public procurement act to permanently fix this problem “We are going to be presenting the revised public procurement act and  in there we are trying to address some of these issues , to try and  streamline our procurement processes such that public good takes precedence over individual self.”

He explained that in order to insure implementation of awarded tenders is not delayed; a clause will be enacted in the act to put a lid on progress delaying tactics that cost the country a lot of money.

“This clause would be that when a public tender is awarded and one of the bidders is aggrieved they can continue approaching the appeals boards or any structure, but that should not stop the project and if at the end of the day any of the structures of government, the adjudicating or tender awarding body is found to have omitted something or awarded the tender with some irregularities, that will be dealt with.”

The Finance PS however added that bidders who present a weak case on purpose to stall public good and national progress will also be taken into account “Similarly when one of these aggrieving bidders is found to have been playing delay tactics with these back and forth at the courts of law they should also be dealt with accordingly, the law should punish them because we have projects that have been stalled because of this behavior,” he said.

Dr Mandlebe said the bill is slated for arrival before members of parliament during this ongoing sitting that that started Monday 6 July 2021. “That is how we want to put an end to this issue, we are gazetting the bill and hopefully it will catch this winter parliament sitting,” he said last Friday.

The delayed implementation of public projects especially in the areas of construction has been a thorn on the flesh as far as development and national service delivery are concerned. In the previous parliament sitting that adjourned in April this year, lawmakers raised the issue as serious impediment to the development agenda of the country.

Recently the disputed tender that has been on the news headlines is the Masunga-Tshesebe road project which saw construction industry giant battle out in court. At the heart of the over 3 years litigation was a dispute over which of the bidders were entitled to the award of the project which falls under Roads Department under Ministry of Transport & communication .

The project was awarded in 2016 to a company called Bash Carriers but the contract was later terminated on performance related ground after commencement and the tender was refloated to invite interested parties with restriction to those who had initially responded to the first tender.

In the matter that was resolved by the highest court in the land-the court of appeal, Bango & Zebra Construction Joint Venture, Landmark Joint Venture and government were disputing a high court decision to order award of tender to Cul de Sac.  The Court of Appeal reversed the High court’s decision and Cul de Sac ended up losing with costs with Landmark joint venture granted award of the tender.

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State forged Kgosi’s arrest warrant

22nd July 2021
FORMER DIS BOSS: ISAAC KGOSI

In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).

The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.

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UDC parties discuss by-elections

22nd July 2021
UDC

Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.

Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.

The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.

This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).

The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.

The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.

In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.

Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.

Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.

“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.

Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.

“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.

The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.

UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.

Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.

Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.

Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”

Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.

FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS  

With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.

BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.

BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.

It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.

Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”

It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.

At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.

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DIS infiltrates Police fingerprint system

22nd July 2021
Makgope

Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.

Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.

BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.

The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.

By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.

In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.

“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.

“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.

The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.

All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.

“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.

Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.

Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.

COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE

As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.

“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.

The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.

“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.

The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.

“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.

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