Citizen information and communications technology companies do not appear anywhere in the tenders awarded by the public procurement and asset disposal board during the past two financial years.
A total of six ICT foreign companies impressed the board. Three were awarded tenders in 2011/2012 and the other three in the 2012/2013 years. Locally registered company, Tata consultancy services won the highest value of over P71 million in June 2011. The tender was for the central transport organisation fleet management and maintenance system (FTMMS).
It was an open international competitive bid. Information from the board shows that ST electronics was also among the highest awardees winning a tender over P31 million last December for the provision of support and maintenance of the crime and criminal recording system under the Botswana police service. The Singaporean company is a leading solutions provider in the Asia Pacific region for info-communications, advanced electronics and intelligent transportation businesses.
Its core business areas include emergency response and integrated security & surveillance systems, e-Government info-communication and enterprise solutions, intelligent traffic and advanced fleet management systems, information security products and solutions, and managed operations services. American defense contractor and industrial corporation company Raytheon, a foreign-international company won an over CAD 5 million tender last December to supply and install autotrac II ATM simulator system and ATM hardware and software re-upgrade for the civil aviation authority of Botswana (CAAB).
Raytheon, with 2013 sales of $24 billion and 63,000 employees worldwide, is a technology and innovation leader specialising in defense, security and civil markets throughout the world. The board also awarded Canadian conglomerate Ubitech Technologies Inc about CAD 5.5 million to supply and implement the air traffic services message handling system (AMHS) and aeronautical information management database for the CAAB last year August.
Did PPADB overlook citizens?
Botswana Guardian is waiting for a response from the board, to explain why the remaining two companies-De Chazal Du Mee Consulting and Radioware Limited were awarded tenders below P3 million. The presidential directive on reservation reserved tenders below that amount strictly for citizens. This is contrary to what the board has done by giving the P2.8 million and GBP 27, 300.00 (less than million Pula) to the two foreign companies. The former won the tender toward the end of 2011 to do works for the support services for the computerised weighbridge system at Dibete while Radio Limited was tasked with provision of maintenance and support services of the radioware system used for the interface of the educational television with the Btv system. Citizen Owned Businesses in Information Technology (COBIT) exposed the board last year following the award of a tender for refurbishment of the national aids coordinating agency website to a non citizen company.
Upon realising that there were sufficiently qualified citizen companies who had submitted bids, COBIT president Anderson Kgomotso appealed to the board to award it to the best scoring 100 percent citizen company. This paper is in possession of documents between the two parties, where PPADB cancelled the tender and re-advertised it to citizens.
Citizens aren’t vigilant-COBIT
Kgomotso’s main concern is that citizen ICT companies are not pushing for their rights in terms of assisting the PPADB. “These things should have not happened had citizens being alert,” he said. On the positive side, Kgomotso said that the decision to cancel the tender was proof of a healthy relationship between the PPADB and citizen companies. He revealed that the board awarded one of the major projects, micro-maintenance to six companies of which four belonged to citizens while the other two were either minority or majority citizen in 2012. “For us as COBIT, that was a positive development,” he said. Botswana Information Technology Society president Pontsho encouraged citizens to strive on and to be competitive. While COBIT speaks for citizen IT companies, BITS is the voice for individuals in the industry. At the moment, there are 68 wholly citizen owned companies; four majority citizen owned ones; and three in which citizens have minority ownership. But they have only harnessed about two percent of the market in the last three years.
Lack of citizen participation a concern-PPADB
General information from the PPADB indicates that citizens are lagging behind when it comes to winning tenders. The value of tenders for 2012/13 awarded to citizen contractors in grade D was P93, 175, 564.65 against P135, 902, 350. 81 awarded to non- citizens for the same grade. For grade E contractors, the value was P132, 125. 531.90 for a joint venture project against P2, 762, 627, 748 (five projects) for non-citizens. No citizen grade E contractor was awarded during that year. Grades D and E are an open competition and cover big projects such as building and civil works. In an earlier interview with Botswana Guardian, PPADB executive chairperson Bridget John said citizens do not participate in tendering.
She has also observed that those who participate get disqualified at a very early stage due to issues of compliance. She is aware that public perception puts the blame on the PPADB for favouring foreign companies over citizens. “People should understand that the board comes at the end after the ministries have evaluated the bids and chosen the best proposals,” she said. In addition, PPADB executive director for works Elijah Motshidi said citizens who had qualified under compliance requirements mostly lose at the pricing stage. Even though in most cases foreign companies beat them when it comes to pricing, last year a joint company won. “Generally, participation is a low and is also worrying us,” he emphasised.