Chinese Contractors Swim in Billion Pula Water Projects

While WUC does not exactly deny that discrimination against local companies may be visible in the water in the way that almost all of its highly lucrative mega projects have gone to Chinese contractors since the onset of COVID-19 and declaration of the State of Emergency last year, it cites accent placed expertise, equipment and capacity to complete projects within budget and schedule as debilitating factors against citizen contractors. LETLHOGILE MPUANG reports.

Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) has been accused of sidelining majority citizen-owned companies in preference of Chinese contractors in the award of the parastatal’s multi-billion pula water projects since declaration of the State of Public Emergence (SoPE) last year.

The Botswana Gazette has learnt that at least five Chinese contractors have been awarded water projects in excess P5 billion in the last 16 months. China State Construction and Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) (Pty) Ltd, China Petroleum Pipeline Engineering, China Geo, Zhengtai and Unik Construction are among the largest beneficiaries of the more than 10 mega projects awarded by WUC since 1st April 2020.

China State Construction and Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) (Pty) Ltd has been awarded three mega water projects totalling more than P2 billion. In 2020, CSCEC was awarded the Lobatse Water Master Plan package for construction of a pump station at Forest Hill (Kgale) and instalment of a reservoir at Lobatse for money in excess of P1 billion.

The second project that CSCEC was awarded during the SoE is the North-South Water Carrier 2.3 for construction of a new pump station and associated appurtenances at the Mmamashia Water Treatment Works for pumping treated water to the Forest Hill Reservoir, as well as interconnecting pipe work and site works and telemetry at over P900 million.

The company also bagged the Gumare Water Scheme project that involves pumping water from lagoons for over P36 million. CSCEC was also awarded a tender for expansion of Mahalapye Treatment Plant valued at over P279 million. Reports early this year suggested that progress on this project that is due for completion later this year stood at 61% in December 2020.

Construction of the P800 million Ramotswa Water Treatment Plant has also been awared to a Chinese contractor, China Petroleum-Zhengtai-Mentro Joint Venture. China Geo/Asphalt Botswana Joint Venture was awarded the P290 million tender for design and construction of a pipeline and associated works to supply the villages of Tswapong South (Sefhare cluster, Ramokgonami cluster, Pilikwe cluster, and Ngwapa and Mokobeng villages).

Unik Construction, which was previously blacklisted by the World Bank over issues of non-compliance, was awarded a P257 million project for the upgrade and remedial of treatment works and pumps at Masingwaneng, construction of a break pressure tank and pump station at Kalakamati, construction of booster pump station at Moroka, construction of a reservoir at Mbalambi, upgrades on electrical and mechanical components, telemetry and electrical components upgrade, pipelines and elevated tanks at different locations in the scheme. The same company was awarded the Moshupa Sanitation Project that is valued at over P893 million in 2019.

This publication understands that many of the citizen owned companies that made bids for these tenders were deemed to be below standard and no other consideration was made for them. The CEO of Water Utilities Corporation, Gaselemogwe Senai, says he is aware of concerns of exclusion of citizen owned companies in almost all of these highly lucrative tenders but sought to emphasise the accent placed on efficiency and delivery of the projects within budget and schedule.

“These are competitive bids open to international bidders,” Senai told The Botswana Gazette. “We want projects completed on time and on budget. As much as we are aware of the citizen empowerment policy, the challenge is that most of our local companies do not have the relevant experience in implementing such projects but we have made it a point that any international company that is awarded a tender should have a local partner.”

He added that another challenge for many local contractors is limited resources, especially equipment.

Khato nears completion of Masama-Mma-mashia pipeline

According to WUC Executive Director, Technical Service, Ntshambiwa Moatlhodi, the P900 million Masama-Mmamashia will soon be handed over by the contractor becuase it is expected that it will be completed next month (June). The tender was awarded to Khato Civils/South Zambezi, Evolution Engineering JV in 2019. “We are not disappointed by the contractor’s commitment to the project,” Moatlhodi told the media. “It will be completed within the agreed time of 12 months, and most importantly at a cheaper price and without any cost overruns.”

He noted that the project would “normally” have taken 24 months to complete. In addition to Gaborone and its surroundings, this project will benefit 23 villages in the Goodhope constituency and parts of the Kweneng region, including Molepolole and its surronding villages.