Items filtered by date: Wednesday, 06 March 2019 - Botswana Guardian

The Ministry of Health and Wellness has been hit by a tender procedure scandal involving millions of Pula, Botswana Guardian has learnt. The scandal which could open a can of worms relates to a P900-million tender which the ministry awarded on 18th December 2018 for the supply of laboratory and diagnostics equipment. The tender award has caused an uproar.

Many unsuccessful bidders have raised complains at the way an invitation to tender (ITT) was designed and the tender evaluated. ITT is the initial step in competitive tendering, in which suppliers and contractors are invited to provide offers for supply or service contracts. An ITT document specifies all requirements of the organisation, including goods, services and timelines, as well as the evaluation process that will be followed. Invitations to tender are often used by public sector organisations, which are legally obligated to offer contracts for goods or service requirements by that process in many countries.

There are allegations that one of the bidders’ Orthosurge (Pty) Ltd colluded with some officials within the ministry to have the ITT designed to suit the company. The company (Orthosurge) is found in the business of laboratory equipment, medical services, Pharmaceuticals, Pharmaceutical wholesalers and veterinary products. This publication has learnt that the ITT was designed in a biased manner contrary to PPADB Act which requires ITT specifications to be unbiased and competitive. A source within the ministry who intends to remain anonymous confirmed to this publication that “the ITT specifications were written for and by Orthosurge. What they did is to make sure that the technical specifications are crafted in a manner that only Orthosurge would pass the technical qualifications stage”.

A bidder that fails the technical stage does not proceed to the financial comparison stage. If in a situation only one bidder passes the technical stage, the bidder has no competition in financial comparison and is likely to charge exorbitant prices, said another source at the ministry.  “Orthosurge has been ripping off the government by supplying overpriced equipment and reagents for years. They are able to do this because the ITTs are designed for them. To give an example, Orthosurge was awarded a simple Automated Blood grouping machine for BWP110 million whilst the market value of the machine is around BWP5 million. That is a profit of a whooping 105 million pula and an insane markup of 2100 percent (two thousand one hundred percent),” said the source. Both the ministry and Orthosurge did not respond to these allegations.

When asked why the ITTs would be designed to suit Orthosurge, the source explained that “Orthosurge is colluding with one of the ministry’s senior Biomedical Engineers to do this for them”.  The wrongdoings didn’t go well with other staff members in Clinical Services department of MOHW. Another senior Biomedical Engineer is said to have been transferred from the ministry after he raised discontent at the specifications of the ITT. The source added “many bidders wrote queries on the specifications before the closing of the tender but their queries were largely ignored”. The PPADB Act requires that all queries are well answered before the closing of the tender.

To add to the ITT manipulation there are allegations that during evaluation two very competitive bidders were disqualified on “baseless grounds” that they had a common shareholder. Declaration by shareholder’s form in the ITT has a note that reads “In the case of competing franchises, the franchises may bid for the same item but with different products.  Item means the commodity required by the procuring entity indicated in the ITT. Product means the commodity offered by the bidder”. The source explained that “the colluding officials influenced the evaluation committee to disqualify the two bidders citing collusion. However, it is fully legal for two companies to have a common shareholder as long as they are not bidding for the same item with the same brand”. 

Both the ministry and Orthosurge have not responded to questionnaires sent to them on the 22nd January 2019 even after follow-ups were made regarding the questionnaires. Oremeng Motshegare of Orthosurge had on the 23rd of January 2019 told this reporter that he was out of the country and would only be in office on the 11th of February this year. He requested that he be given the opportunity to return from his international trip before he could respond to the questions.
When approached a fortnight ago Motshegare proposed for a meeting but he would later respond via WhatsApp that he does not think it would make sense to meet because PPADB has since dismissed one of the bidders for the tender. He was however requested to respond to the questionnaire because its focus is about the ITT, but at press time this week he had not responded. 

Health Ministry Principal Public Relations Officer Doreen Motshegwa said her superiors have demanded for a meeting between this reporter and officials from Orthosurge before responding to the questions. She had however earlier indicated that the answers were ready and they were awaiting one of her principals to append a signature before they could be sent. “My principal has demanded that I round-up everyone involved including you and officials from the affected company for a meeting. I will give you the appropriate date for the meeting next week,” said Motshegwa last week. It was however made clear to her that the questions sent do not warrant any meeting between this publication, the ministry and Orthosurge. She stated that the paper can go ahead with the story the ministry would respond thereafter. Motshegwa said she is engaging both the Permanent Secretary and the Deputy Permanent Secretary on the matter.

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Government would not commit as to when the Department of Mining and Geological Engineering of the College of Engineering and Technology at Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) will relocate to Selibe-Phikwe.

This was revealed by Assistant Minister of Tertiary Education, Research Science and Technology Fidelis Molao this week. The transfer of the department was to commence following the adoption of a motion by Parliament in March 2017 that requested the relocation of the department.  Molao stated that the relocation to Selibe-Phikwe is not feasible at the moment due to financial, logistical and human resource constraints. According to the minister the university is still at infancy stage with its main campus still being developed.“As indicated during the time that the motion was being debated, programmes in Mining and Geological were not stand alone programmes.

They share both human resources, infrastructure and equipment with other programmes. The various Departments and Faculties in BIUST share common resources and facilities like lecturers/professors, laboratories, workshop as well as other administrative and logistical facilities,” said Molao adding that in terms of the current structure of Engineering/Science programmes at BIUST, Year 1 and Year 2 students in the Faculty of Engineering and Technology and Geology, Earth and Environmental Science have to take common courses.

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Wednesday, 06 March 2019 16:27

MPs want OP relieved of excess baggage

Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Nonofo Molefhi says it would be a long process to fully make some institutions under his ministry independent. The minister told Parliament that to move from Office of the President, Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), Ombudsman, Auditor General and Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) will take time as processes for their transfer to be independent would take time.

“Independence that the Members of Parliament are talking about will be a process. It would not happen within three (3) months as some suggest. I would have to engage in legislative process which takes time. It cannot just be an announcement that I make. What is happening now is that all these institutions have administrative and operational independence,” said the minister.

Molefhi pointed out that if DCEC could not undertake investigations in any case, the organisation would be failing the nation because it has operational independence. He said Batswana should be encouraged to continue to report corruption. The minister was responding to queries by MPs when debating the budget for his ministry. The MPs indicated that the time is now for the aforesaid institutions to be moved out of the Office of the President. They argued that even if there is administrative independence which they doubt exists, it is important for the institutions not to be under the control of OP.

The minister revealed that in an effort to fight corruption the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Bill will be tabled during the July session. He said the Bill is awaiting re-submission to Cabinet following a benchmarking visit to Rwanda by the DCEC.
“In pursuit of refining the Monitoring and Evaluation Framework, which will be used to improve monitoring and evaluation of anti-corruption programmes now and in future, the DCEC has benchmarked with the Ministry of Health and Wellness and National Strategy Office.

The Directorate is in the process of finalising the framework to facilitate utilisation by Monitoring and Evaluation Unit”. MP for Gaborone Central Dr. Phenyo Butale said there is need for clear change of thinking and the institutions should be moved from OP. The legislator pointed out that if government wants to talk about legislative reforms but still has DCEC, Auditor General and Ombudsman and other institutions under OP, no achievement will be realised.  He said the institutions can be supervised by Parliament. “We can benchmark with other Parliaments and have these institutions to be accountable. We need to be consistent as government in what we want to do,” he told Parliament.

MP for Gantsi North Noah Salakae said the current government does not take Batswana seriously. He also expressed concern about the expenditure of the presidential ministry.  He said this is one ministry where wastage of funds is rampant. He wondered why the Finance Minister Kenneth Matambo continues to allow such spending at the presidential ministry. Salakae stated there is nothing that President Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi is fixing as he is making Batswana to believe.

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Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) National Appeals Board (NAB) has reversed a decision by union President Masego Mogwera to suspend National Executive Committee member Motswaledi Monaiwa. Monaiwa and other NEC members were suspended last year following a controversial meeting in July where they suspended President Mogwera and other NEC members. 

Mogwera would later suspend the NEC members who participated in the meeting that suspended her. This resulted in court battles between the two camps in the build up to the union’s elective congress in Kasane. NAB sitting last week resolved to set aside Monaiwa’s suspension. “Upon perusal of documents filed on records and respondent having not filed their rebuttal, despite an opportunity having been provided for them to do so, the NAB allows the appeal to succeed.

“The appellant’s letter of suspension of 29th July 2018 is hereby declared irregular and is set aside. The appellant is hereby restored to his full union membership rights and regional chairmanship effective 22nd February 2019,” said NAB chairperson Ruth Khupe in her judgement.

The NAB stated in its findings that Monaiwa’s right to fully belong to a union and participate in union activities is jeopardised due to the suspension. It further stated that according tot Article 47.4 of BOPEU Constitution the president has no power to unilaterally suspend a member.

“The president can only suspend a member once there is jurisdictional trigger from NEC to commence disciplinary proceedings against a member. Once there has been such commencement then and only then the president can suspend such a member. “The power to commence disciplinary proceedings against a member is vested on the NEC only, which is when a principle of delegatus protestas would be applicable to the president.

In this instant case, the appellant and other NEC members were suspended consequent to a discussion surrounding the conduct of the president. Therefore, the president was conflicted in this matter,” said Khupe adding that this is contrary to the principle of natural justice.

NAB stated that notably the suspension was done merely two days to the issuance of the state of emergency meeting by the 1st Deputy President. The action of the president according to the NAB is ultra-vires since she acted against the constitutional provision.
According to the background of the matter on the 28th July 2018, the NEC of BOPEU convened a meeting at Cresta Lodge in Gaborone; whereat 19 members of the NEC were present except one

The NEC comprised of 20 members. Consequent to the BOPEU President and Treasurer General being conflicted in issues discussed, they were asked to recuse themselves temporarily from the proceedings. The 1st Deputy President-Bargaining Martin Gabobake chaired the meeting. He later supposedly adjourned the meeting by declaring a state of emergency

Monaiwa is of the view that Gabobake had acted beyond his power and mandate in declaring a state of emergency hence this was unconstitutional. During the meeting, a resolution was passed suspending five (5) National Office Bearers (NOB) being Mogwera, Gabobake, Tlhabologo Galekhutle, Topias Marenga and Kethapeleng Karabo. On the 30th July 2018 Mogwera suspended all NEC members who participated in the meeting that passed the resolution.

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The results of the recent and most extensive elephant population survey of Botswana estimates the country’s population at 126,000 elephants, a further decline from 131,600 reported in 2014.  The report shows repeated evidence of significant increases in elephant poaching in four hotspots in Northern Botswana, which started a media storm last year.

This report by Elephants Without Borders (EWB) comes after the cabinet sub-committee presented their pro hunting report to President Masisi on Thursday last week, which proposes not only lifting the hunting ban, but also the introduction of regular elephant culling and associated elephant meat canning industry for pet food, as well as closing certain wildlife migratory routes.Botswana government earlier submitted a proposal to CITES in preparation for the CoP18 meeting in May this year, asking to amend the CITES listing of the African savannah elephant to allow for trade in hunting trophies, live animals and registered (government-owned) stocks of raw ivory. According to the African Elephant Status report (2016) Botswana’s elephant population declined by 15 percent in the preceding 10 years.

This report clearly shows that Botswana’s elephant population is not increasing, as is often suggested in political and hunting corridors. Although its population is still the largest in Southern Africa it is actually 100, 000 less than the 237,000 often quoted by politicians and the media in Botswana in attempts to justify culling and hunting.  The EWB elephant population of 126,000 is based on a region-wide aerial survey, covering a larger area than any previous study by EWB.  The joint EWB and DWNP team flew over a period of 62 days, recording more than 32,000 km of transects and covering over 100,000 km2 of Botswana, including Chobe, Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pan National Parks and surrounding Wildlife Management Areas, Okavango Delta and Moremi Game Reserve, and the pastoral areas in Ngamiland, Chobe and the Central Districts.

ELEPHANT POACHING HOTSPOTS
Since the last survey in 2014, the EWB research team discovered a steep increase in the number of fresh and recent elephant carcasses, that is, elephants that died within the last year of both natural causes and poaching. The EWB team confirmed that of the 128 elephant carcasses less than one year old, 72 were confirmed either on the ground or by aerial assessment as killed by poachers and an additional 22 from survey photographs as poaching victims. In addition, 79 older than one-year carcasses were assessed in one particular hotspot, of which 63 were confirmed as poached.

The all-age carcass ratio increased from 6.8 percent to 8.1 percent between 2014 and 2018, generally accepted as indicating an elephant population that could be declining. The elephant remains all show the graphic evidence of poaching with a similar modus operandi. Poachers shoot the animals with high calibre rifles when they come to drink at remote seasonal pans. If the elephant doesn’t die immediately, one of the poachers immobilises it by damaging the spinal cord with an axe.
Their tusks are hacked away, severely damaging the skull, the trunk is often removed from the face, and the carcass is covered in cut branches in an attempt to hide the dead animal.  The poachers seem to operate in a certain area, targeting the bulls with large tusks, before moving on to the next site.

They are in no apparent rush, as a poacher’s camp was also discovered close to one of the carcass clusters.The ground verification team established that the vast majority of poached elephants are indeed bulls between the ages of 35-45 years old.  This also corresponds with evidence in the report that the bull population has decreased from 21,600 individuals in 2014 to 19,400 in 2018. The poaching appears predominately in four hotspots in Northern Botswana – the area between the Pan Handle and Caprivi Strip, in and around the Savuti section of Chobe including Khwai and Linyanti, near Maun, and in the area between Chobe and Nxai Pan.

 A panel of nine independent elephant scientists reviewed the EWB report and found the science to be rock solid. One member stated, “this is a very thorough and carefully documented report demonstrating exceptionally high rigour”.  Nevertheless, the Botswana government still attempts to cast doubt on various issues detailed in the report, as part of a confusing political campaign. EWB strongly refutes the government claims and says they find it regrettable that the government has  not contacted them directly to discuss the report.

In addition to the many elephant fatalities, 13 rhinos were killed by poachers in just 11 months in Botswana, three of which were in the Okavango Delta. The surge in wildlife poaching is alarming, but sadly not unique to Botswana. Dr. Iain Douglas-Hamilton, member of the reviewing panel, says “in my view [the EWB] count showing that elephant poaching has increased to a greater level than previously thought, raises the possibility that further escalations are possible”. Another member adds, “it is safe to say that, if the observed poaching trend continues, there could be a significant decrease in elephant populations. Politicians never like to see negative publicity however this should act as a warning call, and preventative action should be taken”.

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