Botswana: Defective Buildings Cost P93million

25 November 2020

Government is racing against time to find buyers for abandoned Lots 181,198,199 and 200 that gobbled P93 million from public funds, but were immediately found to have structural defects soon after occupation.

Located at Gaborone International Finance Park, the buildings were purchased by government between September 2005 and July 2006 but were immediately abandoned as it emerged that they have severe structural defects. The buildings were occupied by the Auditor General's office, Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Criminal Investigation Department and Registrar of Companies.

Permanent Secretary in Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services Bonolo Khumotaka opened a can of worms when she told the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Government Assurances (PSCGA) on Wednesday that the buildings are not attractive to property buyers. Therefore, government is struggling to dispose properties 181,198,199 and 200. "The lots were advertised for disposal in 2016. Lot 181 did not attract a bidder while other lots were awarded to companies who did not accept the offers. The ministry is also exploring other of disposal strategies, mainly using the expression of interest method," said Khumotaka, briefing the MPs.

Members of the PSCGA expressed concern that losses that government encountered on the buildings is due to massive corruption as public funds have been wasted in the process. Chairman of the PSCGA, Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang who is also MP for Sefhare- Ramokgonami said government is prone to be robbed. He said due to a terrible state of disrepair, there is no way the buildings can be able to attract bidders for disposal as government has been failing to lure them.

Former Gabane- Mmankgodi Member (MP) of Parliament Pius Mokgware raised alarm about the buildings when he asked minister of lands and housing whether they belong to government.Mokgware had pushed government against the wall probing whether there was any appropriate inspection carried out before buildings were bought and who carried out inspection at a time. He also wanted to know if the buildings had structural defects and what is government doing to solve hitches, and he blasted government saying the lots were not worth money spent on them.

The then minister of Lands and Housing, Prince Maele said the appropriate inspection processes were carried out by the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services (DBES).

Government was recently caught in another similar scandal of wasting millions of pula when it emerged that the Ministry of Basic Education (MoBE) is renting private property. The Patriot on Sunday uncovered that MoBE has been paying steep rental fees at Fairgrounds after abandoning its property at the Curriculum Development and Evaluation premises. Asked why the property was not utilized despite money spent on its refurbishment, the ministry officials said the contractor vanished without any work done after being paid.

However, Chief Public Relations Officer at MoBE Oarabile Phefo explained that refurbishment works have been revisited with the hope that they will re-occupy the property before end of 2020.

A local Real Estate expert and construction mogul advised that government should also tap into private independent engineers for inspection than to rely on government agents for inspection. "Government's Department of Buildings and Engineering Services should not just undertake all the inspections alone but they should be cross examined by different experts. There are many cases where government has been swindled money by buying defective buildings," he said.

The expert also said government is reluctant to carry out thorough inspections to ascertain itself with the quality of structures it is buying, noting that sometimes sellers overprize poor structures.

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