State secrets unsafe, warns PS

Botswana national records are not in a secure place. These are the hair-raising revelations of Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security’s Permanent Secretary, Segakweng Tsiane.

The data is housed at the ministry’s headquarters in the CBD area. In trying to justify why her ministry would like to part ways with over P33.6 million a year to rent property tycoon Seyed Jamali’s building at the CBD, Tsiane said: “Where we are now is not the right facility. We want to move to a safer place.” The PS was appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Wednesday.

The ministry is currently housed in a building next to two petrol stations and situated above two restaurants and a shopping complex. However a lot of questions remain unanswered. On two occasions the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) turned down the Defence Ministry’s bid to rent Jamali’s building. The ministry will be trying its luck for the third time. The ministry wanted to rent the office space comprising 28 699 square meters and 19 861 square meters covered and uncovered parking and basement. According to documents seen by this publication the bid if approved will see government parting with P33 631 332.00 annually as rental. The rent will be increased annually at 10 percent.

This means at the end of the five-year contract the ministry will be paying Jamali well over P50.4 million as rent. However despite PPADB refusal Government somehow signed a lease agreement with Jamali. The lease was signed through the Ministry of Lands and Housing. Asked why this was the case Tsiane said it was wrong to do so. “Somebody signed the lease before the approval from PPADB, this was wrong,” she said. But the PS seemed to struggle to field questions from the PAC members and suggested to have the matter discussed in secret. PAC chairman Neheniah Modubule then ruled that the matter would be discussed in private. But there were other pertinent issues, which needed answers such as the fact that no tender was floated to invite possible landlords. This raises suspicions on whether government is trying to favour Jamali or not.

Asked by PAC member, Kentse Rammidi why a tender was not floated to invite other people to express interest the PS revealed that they did not put any advert but rather chose to do everything in camera. Meanwhile, sources say it is clear that the ministry is moving into the building and even security features were being installed. It is believed that RFT Botswana-a company which was previously linked to the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Ramadeluka Seretse has won the tender to install security features at the building. However Jamali denied such claims saying there is no such tender. According to an advert on www.sadcads.com RFT Botswana specialises in security, fire alarms, closed circuit television, surveillance, intrusion and accesses control system installations.

The company, which in 2008 was awarded a tender to supply Botswana Police Services with aviation ground support equipment, was the centre of Seretse’s corruption case. The Directorate of Public Prosecutions charged him with corruption for failing to declare his interest in RFT Botswana, a company that had dealings with the Botswana police, a department under his portfolio. The minister was acquitted of the charges. Officials at RFT Botswana refused to talk to this publication about the allegations that they have won the tender to install security systems at Jamali’s building. They said they were not interested in discussing the matter. Jamili himself denied outright that RFT is installing security features at his building.

“There are no security features there,” he said. Asked whether the ministry will be occupying the building he said, “I cannot comment on this one.” Meanwhile, Tsiane this week said that they are still interested in the building and they are doing everything in their means to convince PPADB. She revealed that they are in the process of making a re-submission to PPADB. In an interview PPADB Public Relations and Education Officer Ditapole Chibua-Tsheboeng said their January 2013 decision to refuse the ministry to rent the building still stands. “For specific questions on this bid, you are at liberty to request for information from the Procuring Entity.” Botswana Guardian has been following the matter and Tsiane had earlier told the publication that her ministry has now outgrown its present office space and cost efficiency of the occupied space.

Asked which departments from the ministry will be moving to the new office space she said the ministry holds a policy position that it ought to be housed together with its departments as it may be determined and which it cannot disclose, the idea being to have a centralized, one stop service and coordinated administration. “Like all procurement, the Ministry is not in a position to share any details about such procurement including which buildings it has explored as well as related processes and stages at which it is, as the matter is still internal, and any prior disclosure before the finalisation of the procurement will be prejudicial,” she said in a written response to the Botswana Guardian’s questionnaire.

Last modified on Wednesday, 31 July 2013 16:13

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