It is now official; Botswana Movement for Democracy virus has spread into the opposition coalition - Umbrella for Democratic Change whose leadership appears divided over the Orange Movement.
Contracting partners of the UDC- Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) this week Wednesday held a scheduled meeting at Oasis Hotel in Tlokweng to discuss among others, the problems afflicting their colleague, the BMD.
The BMD is currently paralysed after the party held parallel elective congresses in Bobonong where two different National Executive Committees were elected.
On Wednesday a fractured UDC executive committee met at Oasis to deliberate on the BMD issue. Botswana Guardian can safely confirm that BPP was not part of the meeting. Only the BCP and the BNF convened in the meeting that started at 10:30AM and was adjourned at 12:30PM.
The meeting was attended by among others BNF President Duma Boko and Secretary General Moeti Mohwasa, BCP President Dumelang Saleshando and UDC’s Treasurer Dennis Alexander and Taolo Lucas who is UDC’s additional member from the BCP.
According to the current UDC agreement, each party has been given one slot for an additional member to the UDC Executive Committee. It has since emerged that the BPP snubbed the meeting in support of the expelled BMD President Ndaba Gaolathe.
Gaolathe has been expelled together with his deputy Wynter Mmolotsi. According to sources, the Gaolathe faction met on Tuesday night in Gaborone at Falcon Crest and agreed with BPP to snub Wednesday’s UDC meeting.
The possibility of forming a new party was discussed at the aforesaid meeting. BPP, especially its leader Motlatsi Molapisi, is a known staunch supporter of Gaolathe. It is said that at the Tuesday meeting the Gaolathe-led faction promised to work with BPP once a new party is formed. The Gaolathe faction has left three options open; going to court; wait for UDC intervention or form a new party.
The majority agreed that they should wait for the outcome of the UDC leadership but if it does not favour them then a new party should be formed. The meeting came after Gaolathe BMD NEC addressed party members this past weekend. Out of the 12 addressed regions, nine (9) called for the formation of a new party, Botswana Guardian has established.
Speaking to Botswana Guardian over the phone after the meeting BPP President who is also UDC Chairman claimed ignorance of the meeting. “I am in Francistown as we speak and I know nothing about the meeting. I was never informed about the meeting. Mohwasa only called me this morning asking how far I am and I told him I know nothing about the meeting or even the agenda,” said the veteran politician.
He dismissed claims that they snubbed the meeting because they are in support of Gaolathe. He stated that the reason why there is even no one other than him from the BPP attending the meeting clearly shows that there was no communication to the BPP about the meeting. Molapisi has been vocal about the need for intervention by UDC leadership in the BMD mess.
UDC Head of Communications Moeti Mohwasa confirmed that BPP did not make it to the meeting. Mohwasa however said there could have been a misunderstanding of the invitations to the meeting.
“When I enquired they explained that they did not understand the context of the communication. They said they did not know if only presidents are to attend or all members of the executive should attend,” said Mohwasa.
The UDC spokesperson stated that the BMD matter formed part of the agenda but could not be dealt with because the BPP was not in attendance. He explained that BMD could not be part of the meeting because of the party’s current situation.
“So our next meeting would be held on the 12th of August in Francistown where the BMD matter would be discussed. The only thing we discussed about the BMD issue is that on top of receiving two reports from both groups, we have also received a letter from the other group from its Secretary General Dr Phenyo Butale asking for UDC intervention. So what would be happening (is that) we would be writing to the other group to inform them about this development and ask for their input,” said Mohwasa adding that all the three parties will attend the Francistown meeting.
BMD-Gaolathe led NEC Secretary General Dr Phenyo Butale could not be reached for comment at press time. Part of the problems that the UDC is facing is disagreements between BCP and BMD which date back to 2012. Under the current arrangement BMD is said to have been against BCP joining the UDC. The last straw that broke the camel’s back was when the BCP was given the 17 constituencies and Vice Presidency of the UDC.
At one point when BPP wanted three of BCP’s constituencies it was alleged to be acting in cahoots with BMD with the aim that BPP would later hand them to BMD. BPP enjoyed the support of the BMD during the first Umbrella negotiations, which founded UDC in 2012. BMD at that time was said to have been considering having BPP under its wing through group membership.
High Court Judge Leatile Dambe is today (Friday) expected to hear a landmark gender identity case, which challenges the Registrar of National Registration for refusing to change the gender marker on identity document of a transgender woman.
The applicant, Tshepo Ricki Kgositau submits that the refusal to change her gender marker violated her rights to dignity, privacy, freedom of expression, equal protection of the law, freedom from discrimination and freedom from inhumane and degrading treatment.
Kgositau, 30, is currently executive director for South African-based transgender rights organisation, Gender DynamiX. She has previously served as GDX’s Regional Programs Coordinator for some time and Advocacy Officer of Rainbow Identity Association in Botswana, which lobbies for the rights of transgender and intersex people.
The High Court has to consider whether the respondents’ refusal to issue the applicant with a new identity document that correctly reflects her gender identity as ‘female’ constitutes a violation of her constitutional rights, and whether the respondents’ justification for the limitation of the applicant’s constitutional rights is reasonable and justifiable.
The applicant is represented by Lesego Nchunga of Nchunga & Associates, with the support of Southern Africa Litigation Centre. Kgositau is a graduate of International Relations and Criminology from the Australian Monash University, specialising in Diplomacy and Human Rights.
She is passionate about pushing the agenda for trans research and to be trans lead and has also co-authored an article on Trans Studies Quarterly archiving trans his/her/their-story on the African continent (Trans Studies Quarterly, Vol.2).
During previous media interviews, Kgositau, who was born in a male body, said she has always felt like a girl before the transition.
“I think I must have been between five and six years old when I thought of myself as a girl who couldn’t do the things that boys did at school but weird enough, girls were also funny towards me when I tried to play with them as if I didn’t belong there but I grew up then with this knowledge that I apparently wasn’t a girl yet I felt like it and didn’t understand why I was addressed like boys,” she recalled.
Responding to the case, Lesbians Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) Coordinator Caine Youngman said the Registrar of National Registration is inconsiderate. “It is a very unfair practice. Refusing to grant Kgosiditau her request restricts her movements and generally, her whole life. I applaud her for standing for all transgender people. She is a champion,” he said, adding that transgender people face challenges with their identity documents almost everywhere they go such as hospitals and other facilities.
Task teams mandated with reviewing the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) revenue sharing formula will this month (August) resume the negotiations, which were suspended several years ago.
Ahead of SACU Council of Ministers meeting in September, the world’s oldest Customs Union has already assembled a team from individual countries to look into the sharing formula which has been a hot topic among members for more than five years. The review, sources have said, has divided the world’s biggest Customs Union, which is based in Windhoek, Namibia.
This week, Dr Taufila Nyamadzabo, finance ministry’s secretary for financial and economic policy told Botswana Guardian that negotiations on the review of the sharing formula will start after it was stopped four years ago.
“Once negotiations start, it will take two years before a decision can be reached,” said Nyamadzabo. He was speaking on the sidelines of a Wednesday press briefing that was meant to discuss the agenda of the two-day African Caucus Meeting on World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) which ends today (Friday).
Before the meetings on the review of the sharing formula were suspended, it is understood that South Africa, Africa’s most advanced economy, had stopped attending for various reasons.
Nyamadzabo said the revenue sharing formula is among the key priority areas which the SACU Council of Ministers will deliberate on when they meet in Pretoria, South Africa in the coming month. SACU has in the past commissioned an Australian company, Centre for International Economics Consultants, to undertake the revenue sharing review, but it was agreed that the report was not convincing, which led to an agreement that each of the five members come up with their own proposals.
Over the years, the SACU revenue pool has contributed significantly to Botswana’s national budget. According to Botswana Unified Revenue Service annual report for 2015/16, the SACU Revenue Pool stood at R88, 8 billion. From the above pool, Botswana received R20 billion, compared to R19 billion the year before, which represents an increase of 4 percent on a yearly basis.
The SACU revenue sharing formula was implemented for the first time in December 2004 to calculate 2005/06 revenue shares for Member States. In practice, Member States’ annual revenue shares are determined and approved by Council in December for distribution during the subsequent year.
The current revenue sharing formula has three components; namely the customs component, excise component and the development component. The customs share is allocated on the basis of each country’s share of intra-SACU imports. The excise component is allocated on the basis of each country’s share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The development component, which is fixed at 15 percent of total excise revenue, is distributed according to the inverse of each country’s GDP per capita.
The structure of the Revenue Sharing Formula is such that member states get a significant share of their revenue from the Customs component whilst South Africa gets more than 90 percent of its share from the Excise component.
The Development component, whilst meant to compensate the least developed economies, is distributed more or less in equal shares among all the Member States. The implementation of the current Revenue Sharing Formula has a number of challenges, associated with the data that informs the variables in the formula. Furthermore, the recent global financial crisis has exposed some weaknesses in the structure of the Revenue Sharing Arrangement.
Botswana’s think tanks have urged government to find an appropriate way to treat government guarantees under the laws without undermining debt sustainability- if the country wants to promote power generation by the private sector.
In a joint second quarter 2017 economic review of April-June, economists Dr Keith Jefferis and Sethunya Sejoe highlight that, through Independent Power Producers (IPPs), whether by coal, gas, solar or any other method, guarantees will always be needed.
The new Morupule B power station has been functioning reasonably well, although it is yet to fully deliver electricity at its design capacity, and is still undergoing rehabilitation work.
In order to increase domestic supply capacity, it is intended to add two more units (5 and 6) to Morupule B. This will be done through the private sector, on an IPP (Independent Power Producer) basis.
To achieve this, the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security (MMRE) and the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) have contracted a consortium of Marubeni (of Japan) and POSCO (South Korea) to build and operate the coal-fired power station for a period of 30 years.
According to the review, however, the deal has run into problems with the financial guarantees required from Government, which has to underwrite BPC’s commitment to buy the power produced, given BPC’s weak financial position. “Government’s ability to borrow and provide guarantees is limited by the Stocks, Bonds and Treasury Bills Act, which limit each of domestic and foreign debt and guarantees to 20 percent of GDP.
“Botswana already has considerable foreign borrowing (mostly from the African Development Bank and the World Bank), and a large sovereign guarantee for BPC’s loan from Stanbic/ICBC for Morupule B units 1-4. Total foreign debt and guarantees totalled 16.1 percent of GDP at the time of the 2017 Budget,” the two economists revealed in their review.
Meanwhile the subject of government guarantees became a topical issue when Specially Elected MP Bogolo Kenewendo raised it at the Public Accounts Committee sometime in June this year. Kenewendo who sits in the Committee asked the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, why guarantees are included as debts and if the officer was satisfied with the level of the country’s borrowing.
In his submission, Solomon Sekwakwa indicated the subject as one of the topical issues that had often cropped up at their International Monetary Fund and Rating agencies forums. “These agencies think we are very protective in terms of the buffer, and so perhaps we need to improve on them,” said Sekwakwa.
Kenewendo buttressed that this restricts the level of borrowing for other vital projects and is becoming a liability to the government. At the time, Sekwakwa explained that, “Botswana has never had money problem, therefore the need to borrow has never been an issue and hence the strategy to respond to the current situation. There are projects which are floating out there which will need guarantees, for instance Energy programmes.”
Sekwakwa revealed that the Morupule programme has withdrawn from the guarantee, as there were other aspects that they thought needed to be addressed. Sekwakwa was of the view that if the programme gives value for the government then it will be brought to Cabinet to provide a guarantee. He said, “Initially one of Morupule’s requirements was for the dollar rate to be at 30 percent. If BPC fails to give them power, government will pay US$245 per day. It is not about the principles but about the ability. We wanted them to reduce the liabilities.”
Sekwakwa said it was also at a time when African continent was having problems because of those organs that had funded them. Some of the African countries refused to yield them a moratorium, they demanded their money back. Sekwakwa advised at the Committee that it is prudent for Botswana to develop her capital markets, as Private Public Partnerships’ money is not free money as it has to be paid back at some point.
He emphasised that the Stocks, Bonds and Treasury Bills Act is something that needs to be reviewed considering the way government bonds are traded. He said his ministry will sit together with the Botswana Stock Exchange and Bank of Botswana for further review discussions.
Looking back on the Q2 economic review, the electricity supply situation has improved markedly, with sufficient power available to meet national demand and no repeat of the load shedding which caused problems for businesses and households in 2014-15.
Several factors have transformed the power supply situation, including the demise of BCL, whose smelter was by far the largest single consumer of electricity in the country. It has reduced national demand by around 15 percent, as well as the ready availability of power from South Africa, which now has a surplus to export; hence Botswana is now no longer using very expensive diesel power generation, according to the review.
In another development, a request has just been issued for proposals to provide 100MW of electricity generated from solar power. This would help Botswana to meet the commitments made to the international community under CoP21 to undertake mitigation measures to reduce Co2 greenhouse gas emissions.
The two economists have emphasised on the need for better co-ordination between Ministries undertaking large projects with significant financial commitments, and the Ministry of Finance which is the custodian of the public finances.
To refresh the memories, a similar problem arose with the deal between BCL – another parastatal under the MMRE - and Norilsk Nickel, which involved a payment of over $300 million from BCL to acquire regional nickel assets from Norilsk.
In the event BCL did not have the funds to complete the deal, but it had not made formal arrangements to obtain sufficient finance from government. As a result, the deal was unable to proceed, and BCL had to be put into liquidation and a solution to this impasse is still being sought.
Plans are said to be at an advanced stage by disgruntled members of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) to form a new political party.
BMD has been divided into two camps since its bloody congresses held in Bobonong village last month. The fractured BMD now has two National Executive Committees (NEC) with Advocate Sidney Pilane leading one while Member of Parliament for Gaborone Bonnington South Ndaba Gaolathe, leads the other.
During the Gaolathe led NEC countrywide tour, members of the party called for the formation of a new party and leaving Pilane and his ‘cronies’ with their name. It emerged at a meeting held in Gaborone on Tuesday night that out of the 12 regions visited nine of them have called for the formation of a new political organisation.
BMD is a contracting member of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). Of the UDC MPs in Parliament both BMD and Botswana National Front also member of UDC, have eight MPs each. The tie came after MP for Maun West Kgosi Tawana Moremi quit BMD to become an independent MP.
At the Tuesday meeting it was agreed that since the Gaolathe led NEC has written to UDC Executive Committee for intervention the process should be allowed to take place. It was however evident that a new formation was in the offing given the mood at the meeting. There were three option, being to form a new party or go to court or await the UDC outcome. It was agreed that if the UDC decision is not favourable then a new party should be formed.
Gaolathe led faction believes that the court route would be costly and would come with consequences. It was also feared that the court process takes time and it is costly and if they do not succeed it might be too late for a new party given the available time towards the 2019 general election.
Political commentator Anthony Morima said the BMD split is long overdue. Morima stated that the earlier the BMD split the better. He argued that the court route that the Gaolathe led faction wants to consider would be a waste of time for them.
“I foresee them losing in court. If they have the numbers as they claim then they should go ahead and form a new party because there would be no need for mobilisation of members. If they have the numbers then the Pilane faction would be just a shell”, said Morima.
He is of the opinion that politics is not about time but numbers. He said there is still time to prepare for the 2019 general election. He observed that chances of reconciliation are slim because leaders of the two factions are not prepared to work together.
He also stated that if Gaolathe faction has the numbers as they claim then the UDC might be forced to accommodate them. He was however quick to caution that the UDC would have to be mindful of the tension between the two factions.
Newly-elected Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) President Advocate Sidney Pilane has expressed concern over the performance of opposition Members of Parliament.
According to Advocate Pilane, little is heard in terms of contribution by opposition MPs. Advocate Pilane who was speaking during his maiden press conference as the BMD leader, stated that the opposition used to be strong and vibrant in Parliament. Advocate Pilane is leading one faction of the BMD while the other is led by MP for Gaborone Bonnington South Ndaba Gaolathe.
Advocate Pilane explained that he would love to see and hear a united opposition voice in Parliament with robust debate. “There used to be times when Parliament was led by opposition MPs in terms of debating issues. Currently there isn’t much that we hear of our colleagues.
“Unless if I do not hear properly and there isn’t much reporting about your performance as opposition MPs in Parliament but you are many in numbers. Back in the days we used to have the likes of the late Dr Kenneth Koma, Maitshwarelo Dabutha and Robert Molefhabangwe who caused uproar in Parliament. They were few but their contribution used to shake Parliament,” he stated.
He explained that opposition MPs should demonstrate that the UDC is an alternative government. Advocate Pilane challenged the opposition MPs to stand up and stage robust debates in Parliament so as to cause an upset on the ruling Botswana Democratic Party. He said through robust engagement by opposition MPs, people would even feel motivated to attend Parliament.
“We need to see you and hear you more. Please inspire us,” said Advocate Pilane who has been linked with intentions to contest for a Parliamentary seat in Gaborone North Constituency. Gaborone North is held by UDC under BMD. He has however dismissed claims that he intends to challenge area MP Haskins Nkaigwa during the BMD primary elections.
This week the BMD leader stated that he would announce when the time is right if he is contesting for any constituency or not. Gaborone North is the same constituency that rejected Advocate Pilane’s membership application in 2015.
Opposition MPs have however been hailed by Leader of Opposition in Parliament Advocate Duma Boko for a sterling job. He said they have shown commitment through their questions and motions tabled in Parliament. Currently MP for Selibe Phikwe West Dithapelo Keorapetse is the only opposition MP who has tabled Private Members Bills.
Keorapetse, who is also Botswana Congress Party Publicity Secretary, has tabled Bills calling for the amendment of disciplined forces Acts (Botswana Defence Force, Botswana Police Services and Botswana Prison Services).
The media can and should in certain instances be activists to fight any form of injustice or drive democracy.
This is according to Uyapo Ndadi, of Ndadi Law Firm. The Human Rights advocate was responding to statements made by the new president of Botswana Movement for Democracy Sidney Pilane who recently pointed an accusing finger at local journalists for being unethical.
Advocate Pilane accused journalists of being paid by certain politicians, specifically those from the rival faction of Ndaba Gaolathe and his team. His take is that journalists gave the Gaolathe faction positive coverage over his own that comprises Nehemiah Modubule, among others.
“They are biased and they are on the payrolls of certain politicians. They are captives…and no one takes them seriously because they spread lies about me and my faction. Now is the time to answer them because I am now active,” a scathing Pilane had said.
He said he had been informed that journalists are broke hence some politicians pay them to attack his camp.
Ndadi began by posting his sentiments on his Facebook page that got people debating. “We are generally broke in Botswana, including journalists, but not all of us, including journalists, would sell their souls. Like in any field, including politics, there are thieves and thugs. Some have been thieves and corrupt for many years, and their deeds are also known across borders,” he said.
Ndadi said in an interview with BG News that the media should be allowed to exercise its activism role. “This is particularly important in countries where the civil society is relatively weak like Botswana,” he said. Ndadi clearly wants journalists to stand up and tighten their activism.
“There is nothing wrong with being passionate about a cause, provided that no propaganda is peddled. The beauty of being a journalist is that one gets exposure to information far better than people outside their industry. Hence their activism is bound to be more informed, which is great,” he stated.
In addition, Ndadi said that media is expected to expose any wrongdoing because in doing so, the public expects them to give direction if they are able to.
“That is not wrong, provided they remain objective in their pursuit of justice and enhancing democracy. Any act that is offensive to growing our democracy should be condemned by all, including the media,” he said.
Government continues to appreciate services offered by international companies though preference is given to citizens, says Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Communications Isaac Moepeng.
He said government is required to develop citizen companies which at times exclude foreign companies. “As a ministry we know that we still need your international expertise and experience to help us develop this country. We are quite happy that this did not dampen your spirit but instead you have seen this as a call to help in developing the local small engineering consultants.
“I am told you were working with the likes of G4 Consulting, Pego, NMA, Pula, and Architects Botswana during the designs and construction supervision of the airports,” he said this week during the launch and rebranding of HaskoningDHV Botswana in Gaborone.
According to Moepeng, this is a clear sign of a company committed to the development of citizen companies. He expressed appreciation that the company has also localised the position of the country director because this shows the company’s commitment to the development of the citizens of this country.
He revealed that HaskoningDHV Botswana, through joint ventures, partnerships and on its own has played a key engineering role in several development projects in Botswana, among others being the engineering designs and project supervision for the development of the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport, Maun International Airport, Tshele Hills Road Over Rail Bridge project, the on-going Tshele Hills Petroleum storage facilities, and the design and construction supervision of the Nyerere Road and North-ring Road in Gaborone.
“As one of the major consumers of the services provided by the consulting industry in this country my ministry will keep supporting the industry and in the same token would appreciate if the industry can also continue to support us to develop this country. We are partners therefore our survival depends on the support we give each other.
“We must be open to each other so that we can address the challenges that the industry, including ourselves, are facing. You have been in this country for a very long time. You have shown commitment to stay in the game. We would like to encourage you to stay in this country and be part of its development journey,” noted deputy PS.
HaskoningDHV Botswana Director Monthusi Kgano stated that SSI Botswana (Pty) Ltd commenced operations in Botswana in 1979 as a partnership called Stewart Scott International. Subsequently in 2006 the partnership was converted into a private limited company, now wholly owned by Royal HaskoningDHV, said Kgano.
He pointed out that the original company was founded in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1922 named after its founding fathers George Stewart, a specialist in water cycle and municipal services projects and Frederick Scott, who was a transport and structural services specialist.
Kgano said HaskoningDHV is a multidisciplinary consulting engineering company which has four business lines - Transport and Planning, including transportation planning for roads, railways, bridges; Maritime and Aviation; Water Technology and Waste Water Treatment and Buildings and Industry, including Mining - under which all the different disciplines fall.
The director stated that as a company, they are proud of their history in Botswana and still believe that they have a role to play in developing the country. He pointed out that they have undertaken some landmark projects in Botswana that they are proud of.
“We have shown commitment to this country and its citizenry by continuously employing and developing Batswana Engineers. Our commitment is shown by our current staff complement which is 100 percent Batswana. As an international company we continue to get assistance from our experienced engineers and colleagues from our other offices to enhance our performance here in Botswana.
“We are in a position to source specialists of every kind from within the global group as the need arises, and are capable, through our local staff of adapting these appropriately to the situation within our country,” Kgano said.
The catchphrase in all SADC Secretariat management responses to the Auditors findings is, ‘we have noted the observation, an independent investigation will be conducted and internal weaknesses will be addressed as would be identified’.
Both the Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Tax and Acting Senior Procurement Officer, Gift Mike Gwaza claimed that everything was done in accordance with the tender documents when BG News started to expose the corruption on awarding of the tender to provide air travel and conference facilities.
They have maintained the same answer to the Board of Auditors on almost all the queries and findings of the audit. However, they promised having noted the observations, that an independent investigation will be conducted and that internal weaknesses identified will be addressed.
The records show that Gwaza in his official capacity has on many occasions taken part in recommending and approving the many tenders that are questionable. The undisputable facts provided by the Board of Auditors’ findings show that the internal audit is allegedly not independent as the head of internal audit and its team members were involved in the bid evaluations for the activities not relating to the internal audit.
Under the procurement and contract management, the board of auditors confirmed that a Tanzanian company -World Link Travel Tours Ltd - was favoured as the terms prescribed in the prequalification criteria ITA 5.3 (d) were flouted. The audit states that the bidder - World Link Travel Tours Ltd- who was awarded a tender to the value of USD 20 million did not meet the required criteria stipulated in the bidding of documents as the bidder did not meet the financial requirement and did not submit the tax clearance certificate before the bid was closed.
The bidding documents were signed on the contract is that the contract will be reviewed every six months. The period of the contract signed in December 2016 elapsed at the end of May.
The audit is clouded by the Secretariat management position led by Tax stating that they will ask the external tender committee to do the investigation. But the financial experts are saying management should not hide behind the innocent tender committee as the committee relies on the information provided by the Secretariat, a matter which means if the information provided to them by the Secretariat is inaccurate, then it will be difficult for the tender committee to detect it.
Worse still, amongst the weaknesses the auditors commented on is that under financial and performance management, the Secretariat did not implement proper record keeping to ensure that supporting documents for financial transactions and procurement are timely retrievable, user access management processes are inadequate, as there were weaknesses in terms of the segregation of duties on payroll and leave approval on the VIP systems.
Government in Pretoria, South Africa vindicates the Botswana Guardian’s series of exposés over the years that corruption is rampant and the SADC Secretariat is rotting from the top.
Amongst the many findings of the Board of Auditors is that there is possible leakage of bids prior to publication of the bid. An example the auditors give is that upon inspecting the bid Contract No. SADC/ADMIN/ES/02/2017 relating to the construction of the new facilities at the official residence of Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Tax, namely Plot 97 in Gaborone, they noted that the date of the issue of documents to bidders is 22nd March 2017.
Upon further inspection of the documents submitted by two bidders, it was noted that Parley Contractors and Civils –the winning bidder, made a board resolution on 20th March 2017 to bid for this contract, which was just two days before the publication of the bid information.
Reliable information provided to Botswana Guardian is that some of the Secretariat leadership is extravagant in spending public resources on projects from which they benefit personally. The construction in question is an entertainment centre and other alterations to the comfortable house.
It is said the winning bidder offered USD218.300 against the available budget of USD 150.000 a matter that leaves SADC with a debt of USD68, 300 in shortfall. It is said that those who authorised the contract are banking on the hope that both the Council of Ministers and Summit will accept the Secretariat’s plea to give extra funds to meet the shortfall.
However, the Auditors have not only recommended that the Secretariat should cancel the bid and issue fresh invitations to all contractors to ensure that the process is not only transparent, but also fair. They said the evaluation committee should inspect the dates of the submission of the bid information in order to check if there are any possible indicators that could be identified.
When it comes to internal control deficiency, the auditors found that the Secretariat did not exercise its duties to ensure that the dates per bid information do not suggest that suppliers were privy to the information that was not publicised.
In his response to the board of auditors, Acting Senior Procurement Officer, Gift Mike Gwaza is reported to have said that the management wish to advise that the tender in question was realised through a negotiated tender procedure. A market survey was undertaken where companies were assessed before they were invited to submit the tender bids under negotiated procedure.
The management advised further that the raising awareness that there will be a SADC tender is not against the SADC Procurement guidelines, but, it is rather in the best practice to inform prospective bidders of future procurement opportunities. All competing bidders were sent full set of bidding documents at the same time and none of them was either advantaged or disadvantaged.
However, the auditors did not budge. Instead, they insist that the bidding documents were sent to all bidders on 22ndMarch, 2017 and the winning bidder had already made a resolution to bid for the tender on 20th March, 2017 before all bidders were informed about the tender, saying this indicates collusive practice as bidders were not aware of this date about the tender and therefore the findings stands.
The auditors have since ordered that the Secretariat should institute independent investigation on how the bid information was leaked and disciplinary action be taken against the perpetrators. Further that senior management should create awareness with the Secretariat about the importance of engaging in a collusive behaviour and confidentiality.
The board of auditors has found that there are many loopholes under the internal control. Amongst others the auditors point that the Secretariat did not ensure that the evaluation of the bids is performed strictly in line with the bids requirements and the procurement policy.
Other findings are that Secretariat did not ensure that the amended procurement policy is adequately reviewed and that it is only reflecting on the changes that were approved by the Council. The Secretariat did not ensure that officials responsible for procurements, the drafting of the terms of reference and evaluation of bids requirements have the necessary skills and competencies to ensure that procurement process are done in line with the procurement policy guidelines.
Under governance, the auditors state that internal audit did not ensure that its independence is not impaired as instances were noted where the head of internal audit and its team members were involved in the bid evaluations for the activities not relating to the internal audit.
The auditors argue that the Secretariat did not ensure that the audit performs its duties independently without interfering with the management responsibilities and duties.