Botswana: MPs Reject P900 Million Masama-Mmamashia Pipeline

In a rare show of unity, Members of Parliament from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) on Thursday night joined forces with their opposition counterparts to vote against a request for a supplementary budget for the ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation seeking P900 million for the 100km Masama-Mmamashia direct pipeline.

There was chaos and intense debate on the floor of Parliament after the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Budget and Estimates (PCBE), Ignatius Moswaane, informed members that they have discovered some anomalies regarding the project. Parliament had to adjourn after Vice President Slumber Tsogwane requested for a caucus meeting with the BDP MPs. But the meeting did not yield positive results for the BDP as the bill was finally rejected by 27 MPs against 24, clearly showing that some ruling party legislators voted with the opposition. The MPs agreed with the findings of the Parliamentary Committee on Budget and Estimates that there are some anomalies with the project.

The committee discovered that Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) floated and awarded the tender to Khato Civils before it was authorized by cabinet or Parliament. The tender was floated in March 2018 and evaluated in June 2018 when it was awarded to Khato Civils pending contracting as it was the lowest bidder at P781 55,356.90. "The price was above the initial project budget of P750 000 000 by P31, 555, 3569.90 (4.2%)" reads the PCBE report.

On May 10, 2019 WUC Board Secretary was authorized to sign the contract with Khato Civils on behalf of WUC. One of the anomalies that raised eyebrows was the Presidential Directive CAB 20(A) 2019 DATED 3rd July 2019 directing that the construction of a separate 100km potable water pipeline from Masama to Mmamashia water treatment plant be approved for inclusion in NDP 11. The project was to be funded at P900 000 000. "The Board Secretary wrote to Khato Civils on July 4th 2019 informing them of the Management Tender Committee's decision of 8th May 2019 to award the 100km Masama-Mmamashia pipeline to them," reads part of the PCBE report.

The Board Secretary for WUC on the 26th July 2019 wrote to Khato Civils advising them to cease making any arrangements for the implementation of the project as WUC was still in the process of securing funding.

In another shocking development the PCBE also discovered that there is another 100km Masama-Mmamashia pipeline under NSCII projects, which has been budgeted at over P1billion under NDP 11. The contract for a new 100km pipeline, that has caused a lot of uproar that reached Parliament on Thursday night, therefore implies that there will be a third parallel running pipeline bringing water to the south.

Ministry to divert funds

Highly placed sources at Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services have revealed that government is hell-bent on seeing the project implemented and will divert some funds intended for other project to fund it. One of the funds targeted is the P400 million for the Lobatse Water Master Plan.

In a curious move early this month, the ministry moved all high capital investment project from the Project Management Office to Water Utilities Corporation (WUC). "This is really shocking because WUC is currently failing to implement their projects. It therefore means that most of these projects won't be subjected to rigorous vetting by PPADB as WUC has their own procurement guidelines," said a worried senior official at the ministry.

Another worry is that the transfer of the high capital investment project will delay the implementation of the water projects.

On Thursday, Assistant Minister Itumeleng Moipisi said in Parliament that most projects have been transferred to WUC, a process he said will take two months. "The decision to transfer the project to WUC is made primarily to fast-track the project rather than to delay it," he said, adding that the projects are still at optimization stage, thus giving all entities involved the opportunity to conclude the transfer process.

The transferred projects

The design optimization of the Gamononyane- Molepolole North South Career connection project by Engineering International Consultant commenced in April 2019 and will be completed this month (August). The project, estimated to cost P1 billion, was scheduled to commence in October 2019 but will be delayed until mid-January 2020 by the transfer from Project Management Officers in the Ministry to WUC. Other projects that have been transferred include Molepolole Water and Sanitation - value P3.5 billion, Maun Water and Sanitation- Value P3 billion, and Gumare Water and Sanitation- P500 million

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