The Chief Executive Oficer (CEO) of Water Utilities Corporation (WUC), Gasennelwe Senai, says the Chairman of the Parliamentary Finance and Estimates Committee Ignatius Moswaane deliberately twisted facts to mislead the nation about funding of the 100kilometer (km) Masama-Mmamashia direct pipeline.
Moswaane, who also is the Member of Parliament (MP) for Francistown West, allegedly influenced Parliament to reject a request by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Kenneth Matambo, for P900 million to finance the project on an urgent basis.
“It’s a pity that Moswaane, being a senior government employee, can be so bold as to peddle such untruths about a government initiative aimed at addressing a looming national crisis,” Senai says.
According to WUC’s topmost executive, Moswaane misled the nation into thinking that the 100km pipeline from Masama wellfields to Mmamashia was not urgent and that it was conceptualised by the contractor, Khato Civils (Pty) Ltd. In an exclusive interview with The Botswana Gazette yesterday, Senai said the origins of this project dated back to 2006 when the National Water Master Plan was renewed. Flowing from that review, WUC was mandated to take over water services in both urban and rural areas.
Gaborone Dam supplied water to the capital city’s peripheral areas. However, when it dried up in 2015, a crisis emerged, forcing WUC to find a way of carrying water to those places.
According to Senai, this meant Greater Gaborone (surrounding areas) had to be connected to the North-South Water Carrier to source from dams in the northern part of Botswana. WUC only recently completed the connection of these areas into the North South Carrier.
Initially, the North South Water Carrier catered for Gaborone to the exclusion of the capital’s peripheral areas. The inclusion of surrounding areas automatically hiked demand for water in Gaborone and surrounding areas, hence the need to address the problem.
According to Senai, Moswaane made the nation believe that Khato Civils was going to be paid P900 million despite the project having been valued at far much less. “The 2006 National Water Master Plan review identified two unconventional resources to augment the Greater Gaborone area, namely use of high yield wellfields at Masama and reclamation of waste water for portable consumption, as contained in the master plan,” he said. WUC then needed to find ways of implementing the projects. A team of experts was sent to South Africa by the minister responsible for water at the time to identify and explore opportunities for accelerated implementation of the projects because the water was needed urgently. What then ensued, according to Senai, was bureaucratic back-and-forth at the ministry for the funding of the project.
“We seemed not to agree at the ministry since the projects were not in the National Development Plan,” he explained. “It needed to be funded from elsewhere. We got to a point where we conceded to run with what was budgeted for in NDP 11. One such project which was in NDP 11 was the North-South Carrier 2 (NSC2) and the Mmamashia Water Treatment Plant expansion because we needed to expand the treatment plant to increase capacity of water that would come from NSC2.”
Early last year, said Senai, the ministry gave them the green light for pre-investment (tender management up to a point of award). Closer to the end of last year, WUC got a resolution for award of expansion of the Mmamashia Water Treatment Plant. “We knew Masama was needed but we thought having Masama and the plant was better,” he said, adding that unfortunately, China Jiangsu, which was awarded the tender was stopped on the advice of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) last year for alleged national security reasons.
According to Senai, this left authorities with no choice but to dust off documents of the 100km pipeline from Masama to Mmamashia and proceeded to the board to seek an award of the project which was going to take only 12 months, unlike NSC2 that would take two years.
“In May this year, the board gave us a resolution to go ahead still subject to funding which was still in progress,” Senai said. “In July this year, we were advised to do a Cab Memo to seek cabinet approval, which we did and it was given. On the basis of that approval, we went ahead and awarded the tender oblivious of the fact that there was another parliamentary project.”
Senai said the tender was administered in an open public tender where 12 companies participated and passed the compliance stage. “At technical stage, only three companies were shortlisted, being China Jiangsu, Khato Civils and China Estate,” he said. “At financial evaluation, Khato Civils was found to be most responsive as it was the lowest bidder and most technically sound.”
WUC said despite Moswaane’s allegations that the project was estimated at P400 million, the correct figure was P750 million as stated in reports which Moswaane was furnished with. However, it was awarded at P781 million, which was P31 million above budget. Senai emphasized that it was still the lowest bid because the second lowest bid was P200 million higher still.
The head of WUC was responding to Moswaane’s committee which said it discovered that WUC floated and awarded the tender to Khato Civils before it was authorised by Cabinet or Parliament. Further, Moswaane alleged that part of the P900 million requested in Parliament would be used to finance the BDP in kickbacks.
“We at WUC are the ones who requested P900 million,” Senai explained. “We requested P900 million because we had to cater for cost escalations and other unforeseen costs. It did not mean that Khato Civil would be paid P900 million. No! Khato was going to be paid P781 million as per their bid.”
There are two dams in the north of Botswana – Letsibogo and Dikgatlhong. Letsibogo delivers water into NSC1 all the way up to Mmamashia. Dikgatlhong Dam, which was recently completed, delivers water into NSC2, which currently terminates at Palapye where there is an interconnection of the two pipelines, according to Senai. Water from Dikgatlhong through NSC2 is pumped into NSC1 at Palapye.
“We are getting 60 million litres a day, but recently we commissioned Pump Station Number 4.1 by Mmamabule, which boosted throughput up to 90 million litres a day with water from Dikgatlhong Damn,” Senai said, adding that before Pump Station No.4.1 with 60 million liters a day, WUC was able to inject Masama West and East into the pipeline because pressure and capacity of the pipe allowed that.
With the advent of Pump Station Number 4.1, he explained, pressure is too high and WUC is unable to inject enough water, rendering the two wellfields white elephants because WUC cannot tap into them. “We need the water,” he said. “NSC2 intended to start at Palapye and would bring enough water at completion in two years, but the matter is before court and we do not know when it will start. We resorted to the 100km project from Masama to Mmamashia as the quickest way to deliver an extra 64 million litres a day (on top of the 90 million litres per day) based on the yields of the two wellfields, pushing up delivery to around 154 million litres coming from the north daily,” he said.
The total supply is currently around 130 million litres per day in Gaborone against a demand of 145 million litres, leaving 15 million litres as deficit. When including the Greater Gaborone area, demand would escalate to 179 million litres a day, further pushing the deficit to 49 million litres a day. “The 100km pipeline was meant to address this challenge,” he noted.
Contrary to this, Moswaane told Parliament that his committee had discovered anomalies in the project, prompting the House to adjourn after Vice President Slumber Tsogwane requested for a caucus meeting with MPs of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). But the meeting did not yield positive results as the bill was finally rejected by 27 MPs against 24, clearly showing that some ruling party legislators had voted with the opposition. The MPs agreed with the purported ‘findings’ of the Parliamentary Committee on Budget and Estimates that there were some anomalies in the project and so Moswaane carried the day.