Botswana: WUC Rots From the Head

Embattled Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) and its parent ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services have in recent past grown synonymous with rampant corruption at government enclave.

Some senior government officials and cabinet ministers have raised concern that the situation is getting out of control, which might lead to the southern part of the country experiencing acute water shortage for extended periods.

The two entities have attracted the attention of Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) who have been tipped off of the rot, this publication has established. DCEC is said to be investigating the awarding of multimillion tenders at the ministry and WUC, some of which have been cancelled against the advice of the consultants and in-house engineers. Currently WUC is swamped with court cases in which companies have taken it to court due to the awarding of the some of the tenders.

Even the recent sacking of WUC Chief Executive Officer Mmetla Masire did not come as a surprise to industry players who had long predicted his departure.

100 kilometer pipeline

The decision by the board of WUC to change the scope of NSC II and have the rejected 100 kilometer pipeline be approved by the cabinet has attracted the attention of DCEC. The WUC board is said to have already identified a company to take up the project. "We opposed this project last year because it doesn't make sense to pump water from the Masama West and East Well Fields into the NSC pipeline because those are supposed to be reserves only to be used during critical times," revealed a former engineer with WUC.

Currently there is no money to fund the 100 kilometre pipeline and is alleged that Project Management Office in the ministry have been instructed to take P 400 million intended for Lobatse water master plan. The money was borrowed from the World Bank to draw water from Gaborone to Lobatse as part of the Emergency Water Security and efficiency project.

Cabinet vow to reject the new project

Some cabinet minister has vowed to oppose to new proposal by MLWS as they felt the officials have just sold themselves to the construction industry. "This is very painful because if we don't act the whole of Southern part of the country will not have water and the new project will only complete in 2025. And what the funds intended for Lobatse Water Masterplan, this is just madness," he said.

Some government have been accused of giving the president wrong information regarding the project and has since been advised to seek external experts. "It is best he gets opinion of external experts who don't have interest in this project because if not careful they are going to mislead him," revealed another cabinet minister.

Delay will affect Molepolole, Lobatse, Kanye, Borolong areas

Government is pinning its hope on NSC II to supply water to most part in the south which has been experiencing dry taps. WUC hoped that before the end of this year most of the areas will be connected to NSC but this seems to be a mirage. "If cabinet can go ahead and agree with the envisaged plan it means people on the southern part of the country will continue to go thirsty until at most 2025," revealed an engineer at WUC.

Delay in finishing NSC II will affect Lobatse economic resuscitation plan heavily

With government to go ahead of with Lobatse leather park, delaying and diverting money funds meant to the town's Water Master Plan, this will mean the project might turn into a pie in the sky.

The project will need a lot of water supply which is said to be currently very low and won't materialize should government allow the changing of the scope of NSC II.

Another project which is going to be affected will be the Botswana Meat Commission which is currently struggling due to shortage of water.

Rot goes to Maun

DCEC is said to be also investigating the awarding of the P900 million Maun Water Supply and Sanitation Upgrade Phase II project which was long budgeted in 2012.

Early this year MLWS cancelled the tender which was awarded to China Jiangsu International after it was alleged that they were involved in massive corruption.

The Chinese took the matter to court which released an order interdicting both MLWS and WUC to award the tender to another Chinese company Zhengtai Group Botswana.

MLWS and WUC defied the court and awarded the tender to Zhengtai Group against the advice of ministry attorneys.

The corruption bursting agency is said to be following the developments with a keen interest.

The project was intended to resolve water supply and sanitation problems in Maun by connecting Kunyere well field to the Maun water supply network, upgrading the existing water supply network and construction of water treatments plants and storage facilities.

Maun is currently experiencing shortage of water and most of the residents used to fetch water from Thamalakane River which is currently dry.

Efforts to contact deputy Permanent Secretary in MLWS Dr Obolokile Obakeng who is responsible for Policy and Programme development were futile as he didn't answer his mobile phone and didn't respond to the short messages and WhatsApp messages sent to him.

This publication wanted to establish if they are aware of the investigations by the DCEC and to ascertain if it is true they want to divert the funds meant for Lobatse Water Master Plan for 100 km pipeline.

In the previous interview, Dr Obakeng denied that they want to resuscitate the 100 km pipeline.

WUC Communications Manager Beauty Mokoba didn't respond to the questionnaire sent to her and didn't pick her mobile phone.

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