GCC BLOWS P40 MILLION ON QUESTIONABLE STREET LIGHTS TENDER

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Ministry investigates 15 year contract

SONNY SERITE

A company that has been placed under investigation by the Minister of Local Government & Rural Development, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi has already pocketed over 40 million pula from Gaborone City Council (GCC).
Venson-Moitoi halted a controversial 15 year contract that was awarded to Acute Engineering (Pty) Ltd for the installation of street lights in the city and appointed a Commission of Enquiry to investigate circumstances surrounding the tender.
The ministry became uneasy after it emerged that the contract will run for 15 years. Venson-Moitoi told the media last month that, “As political head of this Ministry I am concerned about value for money. Are we getting value for money? That has to be proved.”
She highlighted that given the duration of the contract (15 years) Government will also want to establish the skills that will be imparted and jobs created for Batswana during the duration of the contract.
The Botswana Gazette is in possession of a ‘transaction enquiry report’ which details all payments made out to Acute Engineering between November 2016 and June 2018 and the total amount already paid out stands at P40,083,260.00. This publication has however established that a probe by councillors found that the company did not have the capacity to carry out the work it has been awarded. Council officials have however maintained that they are satisfied with the company’s work.
This emerged after Councillors complained that Gaborone was becoming a dark city with fewer street lights functioning.
Member of Parliament for Gaborone North, Haskins Nkaigwa has also previously raised issues with the contract in parliament, leading to Minister Venson-Moitoi instigating a probe.
“Has it ever happened that a contract runs for 15 years? There is something wrong. 15 years is too much,” Nkaigwa is quoted in the media.
Nkaigwa pointed out that the contractor has no capacity and is using equipment from contractors that were overlooked during the tendering process.
Venson-Moitoi told Parliament that she too was concerned about some aspects of the contract.
Some councillors have also raised concerns that some of the officers from the company are too close to other councillors. “This tender was not awarded properly,” Councillor for Sebele Ward, Lesego Mabego once lamented and added that the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime must be a part of the investigations.
Some reports indicate that the company was awarded the tender on 13th July, 2017 but documents in our possession indicate the company was receiving payments as early as 3rd November, 2016. This publication was not able to ascertain which other tenders the company was awarded by the city council.
The Assistant Minister of Local Government Botlogile Tshireletso also admitted to parliament that the awarding of the 15 year contract by the GCC had raised eyebrows within her ministry.
“Though procurement was done through an open tender, the duration of the contract has also drawn my attention and I have directed my officials to examine the contract and I shall revert to the Honourable Member in due course,” Tshireletso said when answering a question from Gaborone North Member of Parliament Haskins Nkaigwa.
According to the contract, Acute Engineering Property Limited has been given responsibility to maintain streetlights along major roads while the GCC maintains streetlights within residential areas through its in-house maintenance teams.
Efforts to contact Acute Engineering were futile but Nkaigwa had asked the Assistant Minister before Parliament if she was aware of a company that was awarded a tender for the installation and maintenance of street lighting in Gaborone for 15 years and if so, to state the name of the company and how their services were procured. He also questioned the performance of the said company, how the company was awarded such a tender despite its lack of capacity and if the Assistant Minister was aware that as a result, Gaborone was a dark city.