Were it not for the delays by the World Bank official charged with overseeing Botswana projects, the Gaborone traffic signalling system would be at par with that of London and other first world cities.
Eight years ago, on 28 May 2009 to be precise, the World Bank approved a loan of P3 billion to Botswana to upgrade its infrastructure. The loan that the taxpayer is already repaying is despite the fact that the objectives of the loan have not yet been implemented.
The World Bank is accused of failing or refusing to appoint a contractor for the ‘Design, Supply, Installation, Operation and Maintenance of the New Greater Gaborone Traffic Signalling System”, despite the financial bidding of the tender (Tender No: MTC/BITP/WB-T102368/2015-2016(002) having been opened on 1st April 2016. For more than a year now, bidding companies are still reeling in anxiety as the Roads Department (as the implementing department) keeps extending the validity period of the tender apparently at the insistence of a World Bank official (names known to this publication), who is accused of doing everything in his power to award the tender to a preferred contractor.
Following the Technical Evaluation Stage of the tender, bidders were invited for the Financial Bid Opening at the Ministry of Transport and Communications Head Office Boardroom in April last year where final bid prices were read out individually in the presence of all bidders. There were 4 (four) bidders who had qualified to proceed to the Financial bidding phase of the tender, namely SICE (Spain), TMT (South Africa), SWARCO (Austria) and Siemens (South Africa).
The tender requirements had specifically prescribed that it was mandatory for the Bid Prices to be submitted in Botswana currency (BWP) and not in any other currency. However, one of the companies, SICE, quoted its bid in Euros and to the bafflement of other bidders; it was allowed to proceed in the competition. The pricing in Euro essentially includes some foreign exchange risk and the cost of forward cover, which a Euro based bid would not cover. According to documents The Botswana Gazette is in possession of, the companies had quoted as follows: Siemens P643 million, TMT P433 million, SWARCO P522 million and SICE quoted Euro3 million, thus rendering its financial bid non compliant.
Information gathered indicates that SICE entered into communication with the Department of Roads during the bid evaluation to confirm their price and that the actual figure quoted at the Financial Bid Opening was not from their submitted tender document. It is not clear why SICE was given preferential treatment after it failed to comply with material rules governing the tender process and should thus have been summarily disqualified in line with the procurement laws and regulations of Botswana which the World Bank invariably claims to adhere to in their new Procurement Framework. The framework, which was approved by the board on 21st July 2015 undertakes to recognize that countries are looking to be more efficient in their public spending so that they can invest more in basic public services such as education, health and infrastructure services and enrich development outcomes. The World Bank’s Core Procurement Principles also state that the Bank’s decisions are based on value for money, economy, integrity, fit for purpose, efficiency, transparency and fairness. Eight years on, Botswana is still to benefit from any of those undertakings.
This publication is in possession of several reports from consultants who were engaged to provide professional analysis of the bidding companies and despite the fact that one of the companies, Traffic Management Technologies (TMT) came out favourably in the consultancy reports; the World Bank is still prevaricating when it comes to giving the ministry the go ahead to award the tender. Information seen indicates that SICE wrote to the ministry after all bids were submitted and evaluated to request the Ministry to ignore the mistakes in their financial bid and this was despite the fact that this indulgence was not catered for in the tender guidelines or extended to other bidders.
It has also emerged that SICE South Africa was going to undertake the project and not SICE International (Spain) which was the company that had submitted the bid. The ministry had also recommended TMT on the basis of low pricing and evaluated technical quality. This publication is also in possession of a letter from the Acting Director of Roads, Kgakgamatso Kalasi, dated 1st September 2016 in which she wrote in part, “Roads Department considers SICE’s offer contradicting and as such non responsive’’. Roads Department officials are said to be frustrated by the World Bank representative who calls the shots and delays the awarding of the tender. All hope for progress is now pinned on Minister Kitso Mokaila who only joined the ministry long after the project was set in motion by his predecessor Tshenolo Mabeo. It is also feared that the continued extension of the validity period might be a ploy by the representative to have the project go for re-tender as the regulations only allow a maximum of three extensions which will be exhausted at the end of next month after the Roads Department wrote to the bidding companies last year on 28th September asking for the third and last 210 days extension.
Reached for comment, the world bank representative could only say the bid evaluation was ongoing and referred this publication to the Ministry of Transport and Communication, Roads Department spokesperson Doreen Moapare who said the gist of our questioning “borders on current internal matters in regards to the tender in question’’. She said their response, therefore, was that the project still is under adjudication and as such any disclosure of content whilst at this stage can prejudice its outcome and subject government to litigation. Moapare refused to answer as to whether the World Bank recognizes and adheres to Botswana’s general procurement standards and procedures as laid out by the Public Procurement & Asset Disposal Board (PPADB). The World Bank Integrity Vice President Angela Ting said only if we could provide her with documented evidence will she be able to investigate the matter. The primary development objective of this project was to enhance the efficiency of the transport system by building modern business management capacity and improving the strategic planning aspects of inter-regional and critical transport infrastructure in and around Gaborone. This was expected to bring to an end the current practice of having police officers physically controlling traffic movements at intersections.