Citizen sub-contractors snub Minister Seretse’s site visit

Tlotlo Mbazo - BG reporter
Wednesday, 20 February 2019
Citizen sub-contractors snub Minister Seretse’s site visit

Nominated sub-contractors working in the constrction of the P270 million Police Forensic Science Laboratory at old Village Police College snubbed Minister Vincent Seretse’s recent site vist, presumably to avoid an awkward encounter. The lab construction project, which was awarded to main contractor - China Jiangsu International Botswana (Pty) Ltd - at a contract sum of P267 627 546.94 - commenced on January 2017 instead of the initial October 2016.

It is being undertaken by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing Development and is expected to be completed by July 2019 from the initial February 28, 2019 date. Although Minister Vincent Seretse is aware of the delay of the project, he is comfortable with the work the main contractor - China Jiangsu International Botswana (Pty) Ltd - is doing so far, save for other players. During his site visit, Seretse was confronted with issues concerning the delays caused by nominated sub-contractors including, electrical and mechanical engineers. Among the reasons for their delay was shortage of manpower.

“I’m happy with the main contractor so far, but cannot say the same thing for key professionals who have been sub-contracted and are delaying the project because of their own peculiar challenges,” Seretse said, adding that such behaviour determines the extent to which such professionals commit to the project.  In fact, his permanent secretary, Dikagiso Mokotedi was to have a follow-up meeting with all stakeholders involved in the project last week to get explanations from sub-contractors who could not honour the minister’s tour of the facility.  Consultants are also expected to produce a report on challenges and make recommendations of action to be taken against those involved.

“These are appointed to do government work, and they need to take it seriously,” Seretse said, adding that things will change as his ministry is working on a structure that will enable them to move from the old way of doing things to ensure that everyone involved is accountable. Seretse said the delay was further exarcebated by the fact that at the beginning of the project, the contractor had to stop work as a result of some investigations that had to be done on site by Heritage specialists at the Department of National Monument and Art Gallery.  The delayed supply of some critical roofing materials and other client-initiated variations to the project were also contributing factors.

However, Cui Wanglin of China Jiangsu International Botswana (Pty) Ltd told Botswana Guardian in an interview that although there have been delays, he does not anticipate any cost overruns but is confident that the project will be completed within budget.  Wanglin added that they have had to cooperate with the engineers on the designs and constant changes to satisfy the requirements of the client.

“The engineers cannot catch up with us, but we will however cooperate with them so that we are able to hand over the project to the client by July this year,” Wanglin said. The scope of works in the project comprises; the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), Forensic Science Laboratory and Pathology lab which also houses mortuary, ancillary buildings and related external works.

The facility will also house the latest model of the clinical waste disposal equipment which uses microwave technology to burn waste, which makes it environmentally friendly, compared to the conventional incinerators. Meanwhile, Mokotedi confrmed that the ministry was disbanding the Department of Building and Engineering Services (DBES) and creating a new leaner structure that will achieve efficient and more effective ways of delivering infrastrucre developments. 

DBES is responsible for government building development projects, associated infrastructure, engineering services and maintenance of buildings, electrical and mechanical stock. The decision to restructure DBES has also been influenced by common challenges associated with infrastructure developments like delays, cost overruns and poor workmanship.

The new structure, which is part in place, will be separated into two separate areas that involve; infrastructure planning, where pre-contract activities and services will be done on site, and the development department where actual construction processes will be managed, according to Mokotedi.  “In the next two to three months we will be working to formalising the details,” Mokotedi said, explaining that it is no longer effective to combine all functions involved in infrastructure development into one single department.  
 “We want contractors to be able to deliver while on site,” Mokotedi added.

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