The Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing Development has over time decried delays in starting some projects as a result of some unsatisfied unsuccessful bidders who approached courts of law for intervention.
The Ministry that is mandated to deliver public infrastructure for beneficial use by Batswana this week welcomed the decision by the Administration of Justice to treat all cases relating to public tenders before the High Court of Botswana as urgent. While the Ministry respects the rights of any bidder to seek relief from the courts if not satisfied with a tender award process, Ministry Public Relations Officer, Christopher Nyanga says it was always frustrating when such cases took too long to be resolved.
This meant that Batswana, who are the ultimate beneficiaries of any public infrastructure project, would wait for years before they could have a hospital, school or police station built in their area. The Chief Justice Terrence Rannowane last week directed through a Practice Directive that cases relating to public tenders be deemed to be of exceptional public importance and be treated as urgent applications. The Practice Directive that came into effect at the beginning of this week also mean that all such cases will be given an expedited management, set downs, disposals in the High court.
Such cases according to the Chief Justice will be prioritised and also removed from the normal track of other cases. This comes after an observation that cases relating to public tenders take inordinately long to be resolved culminating in delays in project implementation and infrastructure development, cost overruns and associated hardships such as inability to timeously provide much-needed development and services to the prejudice and detriment of the communities intended to benefit from such projects.
“In order to address this undesirable situation, I have determined that cases relating to public tenders are of exceptional public importance and must be treated as urgent applications,” said Chief Justice Rannowane. Nyanga adds that the Infrastructure Ministry is however, aware that this directive does not affect the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) and the Court of Appeal, which are also legal bodies where appeals by unsatisfied unsuccessful bidders can also be lodged.
“It is the desire of the Ministry to see these other entities also adopting the same position as the High Court of Botswana in order that delayed disposal of all cases relating to award of public tenders are given high priority in all areas where such cases are lodged”. According to the latest PPADB Annual report 2019/20, the total number of cases brought before the courts were 24. Eleven have been dismissed, one upheld, one withdrawn and the remaining 11 are yet to be concluded.
The PPADB alone registered a total of 200 complaints in the year 2019/20. Eighty were made to the Board against Ministerial Tender Committees (MTCs) and District Administration Tender Committee (DATCs) decisions. Eleven including three on Integrated Procurement Management Systems (IPMS) were lodged against PPADB. The remaining 109 were MTCs, DATCs, Parastatals, Landboards and Council complaints copied to the Board. A total of 10 appeals were taken to Independent Complaints Review Committee (ICRC).
In addition, the Board handed 91 complaints with 48 resolved within the prescribed 14 days. Out of 91 complaints, the Board dismissed 62, upheld 12, while 10 were brought before the ICRC and the remaining seven were still outstanding.