The P8bn challenge

News coming in over the weekend indicates that after an exhaustive procurement process, a Korean/Japan consortium has been chosen to expand Morupule B by a further 300MW.

The project, according to the consortium, will cost US$800 million (about P8.1 billion) making it one of the country’s biggest investments. The expansion involves the construction of two more units at Morupule B, with the consortium jointly designing, financing and building the plant, then operating and maintaining it for the 30-year contract.

The consortium will enter into a supply deal with adjacent Morupule Coal Mine and the resultant power will be sold to the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC), where negotiations are expected to start soon.

The current developments stem from processes initiated in 2013, as government set aside the idea for a 300MW Morupule C and opted to hive it off to the private sector.


The latest developments represent an opportunity to very clearly spot the differences in both the procurement and the advancement of two similar and in fact, adjacent projects.

Procurement for the one, Morupule B, was shrouded in controversy, leading the DCEC to probe the matter, amidst allegations that the chosen contractor had no prior experience delivering a power station of that size, within that time.

Advancement of Morupule B was and still is the daily fare of media, the cannon fodder of opposition politicians and government critics and the bane of ordinary citizens who have been forced to normalise the patently abnormal phenomenon called load shedding. Deadlines and costs flew by at Morupule B as the contractor battled to deliver the power station, citing a medley of factors, while households, industry and the economy in general suffered an unimaginable experience of electricity shortages and interruptions.

Today, the Chinese contractor for Morupule B is suing government for millions, while government is focussed on a short-term remedial project to stabilise the plant, in preparation for a longer more permanent repair programme.

The process followed in awarding the contract to expand Morupule B, by comparison, has been transparent and for the most part, open to public scrutiny. From the first Request for Expressions of Interest to the various processes, the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) has granted access to the procurement process, detailing the criteria and even the scores bidders will have to meet.

The identity of all bidders was known in mid-2013 and by the next year, the shortlisted firms were known. Any Motswana with Internet access can search the backgrounds of the two companies in the consortium, and also peruse the PPADB board decisions that have led to this point.

This is not to say the consortium will not repeat the mistakes of Morupule B. However, Batswana can, to a great extent, draw confidence from the fact that the process has been clear and the capabilities of the consortium are available for scrutiny and critique.This is the essence of transparency and accountability in governance.

Today’s thought

“A basic tenet of a healthy democracy is open dialogue and transparency.”

 

 - Peter Fenn

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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