It was a week of unforced errors and misinformation from the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Land Management, Water & Sanitation Services Bonolo Khumotaka as she ‘downdated’ the nation on the North South Water Carrier (NSC2.2) and moving of high capital projects from Project Management Office to Water Utilities Corporation.
Khumotaka denied that there is political and Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) interference in awarding and or cancellation of tenders.
“At our ministry we follow procurement process and there is no where we meet with Office of the President even the Minister responsible doesn’t not interfere in the process and I must assure the nation that even DIS has not authority in our procurement processes and has never even tried to interfere,” she said.
In February and March this year, the PS summoned the PMO officers staff who were evaluating the NSC 2.2 Contract 04 to embellish and change evaluation report to which the PMO officers refused.
Though Khumotaka denied the interference of the Office of the President in the multibillion NSC 2.2 Projects, early last year, PMO staff were summoned at OP where they were instructed to put aside technical evaluation undertaken by the consultant Bergstan Consulting Engineers for the P1.3 billion Masama/Mmamashia pipeline which is contract 01.
The senior officials which included one of the former Water Utilities Corporation senior officer now with DIS instructed the PMOs to do the reevaluation of the tender which has initially shortlisted WBHO as the best in technical report.
The entire project NSC 2.2 from Palapye to Mmamashia Treatment Plant (270km’s) has four contracts; contracts 01-04.
Masama to Mmamashia pipeline will cost P1.3 billion, Mahalapye to Masama P1.1 billion, and Palapye to Mahalapye 1.3 billion.
The last one is associated feeder tanks and break pressure tanks which will cost P800 million.
NSC will bring 120 mega liters of water per day down the pipeline with 110 mega liters per day reaching Mmamashia Water Treatment Plant Works. The other 10 mega liters will remain at Mahalapye to supply Tswapong South villages.
The 110 mega liters per day will ensure water security within the eastern corridor all the way to Sekhutlhane.
Last year DIS advised MLWS to terminate dealings China Jiangsu reasoning that the Chinese state owned company was involved in massive corruption and posing a threat to national security.
One of the projects awarded to China Jiangsu and canceled due to the advice of the DIS includes the construction of a water distribution network tender in Maun, worth over P1.5 billion which was later awarded to Zhengtai Group Botswana (Pty) Ltd at a value of P1.8 billion after legal tussle which was settled at the Court of Appeal.
Though Khumotaka denied the interference of the DIS and some senior officials at the Office of the President recent court papers during the case of Estate Construction and DIS revealed that they were again instructed not to pay the company for the construction of the Kanye Sewage system due to allegations that they were associates of former spy chief Isaac Kgosi.
Transfer of high capital water projects to WUC
On the transfer of the high capital water projects from PMOs to WUC, Khumotaka said that this was motivated by the capacity of the latter to deliver projects well on time and effectively.
The PS has premised the reason for transfer of projects as being an issue of capacity, claiming that PMO doesn’t have the capacity while WUC does. This contradicts WUC which is currently implementing the World Bank Projects which are severely delayed. In offering reasons for the delay, WUC have indicated to Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and World Bank that they are under resourced.
“Though both units have engineers, WUC has proven to be more capacitated on project management and understand the water plans making it easier for them to attend to pipe faults,” she said.
Further, for the projects that are being transferred to WUC from PMO, WUC has requested that the personnel that were handling the projects at PMO should be seconded to WUC as they WUC doesn’t have the resources to handle the projects.
She rebutted allegations that they violated the Water Act by transferring the projects indicating that Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) has advised them to do so.
“We sought the advice of the PPADB who gave us the green light to transfer the projects as they didn’t have any problem with the move, she said.
PMO was instituted as a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) with the sole mandate of managing high capital infrastructure projects since 2006.
“The PMO has undeniably been industry leaders in Project Management and Project Implementation and this can be attested to by the projects that they have successfully completed. Even construction industry players will testify to the performance of the PMO. The same can hardly be said about WUC and again it may be unfair to compare as WUC’s mandate has always been Water Supply and not Project implementation,” commented one industry player who refused to be named.
There is fear among some engineers that the transfer of the water projects to WUC is going to burden them as they still have almost 25 projects funded by World Bank which are behind schedule.
“They have their own maintenance and efficiency improvement projects to deal with and now adding their 7 projects from the development budget and the five high capital projects from PMO that’s too much,” lamented one water engineer from WUC.
One of the project that has been a thorn on the back of WUC is the Ramotswa Potable Water Treatment Plant which entails the construction of a reverse osmosis plant and water ponds for water treatment. The project which is started in 2014 is yet to be completed.
Another thorny project for WUC is the Boteti southern water cluster project which has been delayed for more than ten years.