Lodge developed structural defects two years ago
Funds also for new furniture, new conference center
Govt cautioned against buying another ‘Orapa House’
Information about Tautona lodge now top secret
Botswana Government, will soon fork out over P20 million on renovations at the controversial Tautona Lodge, which was recently bought for a whooping P58 million, The Patriot on Sunday has learnt.
The state’s newly purchased Gantsi based Tautona Lodge, which has sparked a lot of criticism towards the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) government, is alleged to have developed some structural failures two years ago. Impeccable sources at Government Enclave revealed that part of the reasons why the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Kabo Morwaeng being instructed to no longer disclose information about the lodge, include hiding renovations expenses that are on the cards.
It said the sellers of the lodge to government have been aware of the costs that will be incurred if they could go on with renovating the lodge, which has been closed for maintenance recently. “There is a lot of expenses that will be incurred by the government on the lodge. There is a need to renovate key building structures of the lodge as engineers at the Government’s Department of Buildings and Engineering Services are not satisfied. More money is also proposed for adding new furniture and a building of a new conference center for government,” said an impeccable source.
As controversy over the purchase of the lodge spirals out of control given a rife socio-economic crisis brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, government has decided to hide information related to lodge. In a letter written to Leader of Opposition (LOO) in Parliament Dumelang Saleshando this week, Presidential Affairs Minister, Kabo Morwaeng said he is not at liberty anymore to share information on Tautona Lodge.
Morwaeng said he has been advised that he is not at liberty to disclose all documents due to the legal restrictions imposed by the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act (Cap42:08). He added that Section 93 of the Act provides for information to be declassified only after two years, except in cases where disclosure would be prejudicial to the interests of the government or contractors, in which case the board shall retain such communications for a further period of two years.
“Section 85 of the Act also provides for access to documentation and data base. Subject to a fee, the Board can authorise public access of the following: a) the standardized bidding packages, forms, national Standards specifications and Annual Report and amendments thereto and (b) being database containing the- contractors register; specification provider, test and certification forms; insurance and intermodal transport operations; documentation collection and contractors prices and construction price index,” said Morwaeng, turning Saleshando down who asked for additional information related to purchasing.
Saleshando’s request for information followed a promise made by Morwaeng to Parliament that all information related to the purchasing of lodge would be made available for transparency purposes.
Morwaeng could not be reached for comment at time of going to print late Friday as he didn’t answer calls to his mobile phone and did not respond to the messages sent to his WatsApp account too.
The purchase of Tautona Lodge became known to the public after the LOO who is the MP for Maun West Dumelang Saleshando raised it in Parliament with Morwaeng confirming its deal. At the time Morwaeng said the property is 100% wholly owned by the Government of Botswana. “The acquisition of the facility followed Government procurement procedure as prescribed by the PPADB Regulation 61 which provides for direct appointment. The primary consideration for acquisition of the facility was its location, which provides a vast serviced land i.e. electricity connection, access road to primary road, water and waste water services including proximity to a hospital and an airport,” said Morwaeng sparking lot criticism when answering question in parliament.
The lodge, he said, will mainly be utilized for training by government departments, including being a center for hosting research on sand veldt environment, particularly wildlife, cattle rearing, agriculture.
A local Real Estate expert and construction mogul who preferred not to be named said the government could have bought lodge that is no longer in good state adding that it might a liability like Orapa House. The expert has cautioned that the government has previously used to buy the state of art properties but most of them never had any positive yields as they turned out to be not in a good condition at all.
“It would be very important for the government as a buyer to have undertaken a comprehensive inspection of the lodge before buying it. There are instances where government bought properties and ended up abandoning them due to structural defaults. If the lodge was closed for maintenance recently after government announced buying the lodge, it should be a cause for concern,” he said.
Last year, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands Management, Water and Sanitation Bonolo Khumotaka, has told the parliamentary committee on Government Assurances that the Government is racing against time to find buyers of abandoned lots 181,198,199 and 200 that gulped P93 million from tax payers but have structural defects, hence government making loss.
The buildings questioned were purchased by government between September 2005 and July 2006 but they were immediately abandoned as it emerged they have a severe structural faults.
Khumotaka said government has since took the decision to dispose properties 181,198,199 and 200 respectively, adding the lots were advertised for disposal in 2016 but never attracted bidders.
Also in 2020, this publication also uncovered that basic education ministry abandoned its Curriculum Development and Evaluation property in Gaborone and paying steep rental fees at Fairgrounds.
Asked about why the property was not utilized despite money spent on it to be refurbished, the ministry officials said the engaged contractor vanished without any work done after being paid.