- Judge slams PADB, ICRC bias
- Awards P450m tender to Cul de Sac
- DCEC open probe for possible corruption
A recent judgement by the Gaborone High Court has exposed possible corruption and collusion in government procuring systems for the awarding of the tender for Tshesebe-Mosojane-Masunga Road, The Botswana Gazette has established.
Justice Michael Leburu, last week, issued a verdict ordering the Public Procurement and Assets Disposal Board (PPADB) to award the P450 million tender to Cul De Sac (Pty) Ltd after the court reached a conclusion that the awarding of the of tender to Land Mark Projects and Van & Truck Hire (Pty) Ltd should have been long disqualified.
The court also concluded that instead the PPADB and the Independent Complaints Review Committe (ICRC) had deliberatelly disregarded the tendering and procurement laws. It was also found out that the chairperson of ICRC had direct dealings with Van & Truck Hire (Pty) Ltd.
The role of the ICRC is to adjudicate over complaints against the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB).
“It is common cause that the procuring entity’s chairperson had direct dealings with the preferred bidder which was a clear conflict of interest,” Justice Leburu said. “It is clear that their lip-service to the applicant’s appeal in favour of an appeal by the successful bidders was filed at the same time but decided on different dates and immediately followed by a tender award. By the time the applicant’s appeal was communicated to it on January 17, 2020 the tender was already awarded.”
He concluded that Cul de Sac was the only compliant bidder for the tender. Cul De Sac, Bango Trading, Zebra Construction, Land Mark Projects and VAN & Truck Hire (Pty) Ltd were the companies to have bidded for the 51-kilometre road tender.
Justice Leburu stated that an additional reason why as to Land Mark and Van & Truck Hire should have been disqualified was because the company had previously benefited from the 2016 Economic Stimulus Package and (ESP) therefore it could not benefit from another government tender under the same programme.
“The applicant is the only tenderer standing out in all requirements hence a foregone conclusion that it be awarded the tender,” the jusdge noted. He added that the matter should not be referred back to ICRC and PPADB as they were determined to disqualify Cul de Sac at all costs despite it being the only company ticking all compliance boxes.
“The second ground that militates against referring the matter back to the committee and PPADB is that the two exhibited gross incompetence in the interpretation and application of the rules,” Justic Leburu pointed out. “Initially, the two contended that the tender was an ESP project. Subsequent to that, the two were indecisive and said the ESP criterion was not part of the rules. Such oscillation and vacillation clearly shows the level of incompetence exhibited by the two.”
The judge was also concerned that it had to take more than 10 months for ICRC to produce some of its supporting evidence, including minutes, as to how a decision to disqualify Cul de Sac was taken. ICRC claimed that the evidence could not be found in its archives.
“This is not only shocking but a gross incompetency and as such the committee cannot be trusted to perform its statutory duties with respect to the tender in dispute,” he concluded.
Cul de Sac is the applicant in the matter while ICRC, PPADB, the Attorney General, Bango Trading, Zebra Construction, Land Mark Projects and Van & Truck Hire were cited as respondents.
Meanwhile, the respondents – including ICRC and PPADB – are said to be preparing to appeal the judgement inspite of the damning discoveries made by the High Court. It is also understood that the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC) has opened enquries into the matter. “We receive reports from numerous sources and we do look into these reports, including judgements from the courts,” DCEC spokesperson Lentswe Motshoganetsi told The Botswana Gazette.
The investigations are believed to be focused on unearthing possible corruption and collusion at the Department of Roads, PPADB, links between ICRC and Land Mark Projects and Van & Truck Hire, as well as into an undisclosed Chinese company with interest the same tender but did not bid.