FRANCISTOWN: Francistown mayor, Godisang Radisigo has finally opened up on his decision to withdraw from supplying food hampers to residents at Newstance as part of a government initiative to cushion Batswana against the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Through his general dealer, Lwange Investments, Radisigo had won the food supply tender but soon dropped his pursuit of the tender after many cited a conflict of interest.
In addition, the general consensus amongst some Batswana is that by virtue of being the mayor, Radisigo might have been privy to some details that enabled him to win the tender. The Francistown City Council (FCC) directly supervised the awarding of the food supply tender.
During an interview at his office last Thursday the mayor disclosed that contrary to recent reports, he was not pressured by his party, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), to withdraw from supplying the food hampers.
“After having discussions with my wife we concluded that I should decline the offer. I was deeply worried by negative reports surrounding the awarding of the tender. I hear that I did (give up the tender) so owing to an investigation from my party (BDP),” Radisigo said.
“It is not true. To the best of my knowledge there is no one in the party or even in the council who believes I might have flouted procedure to win the tender. The party secretary-general has denied knowledge of such investigation.”
Radisigo still maintains that he did nothing wrong by tendering to supply food parcels to some residents in Francistown East.
“I believe that many people were arguing (against him being issued the tender) from less informed positions. I was initially not interested in tendering for the food supply, but did so looking at various factors.
The first factor is that there are no supermarkets or general dealers owned by Batswana in Newstance or Francistown East apart from butcheries. We only have big establishments like Sefalana, Choppies and Spar. I felt that I should tender to benefit like every Motswana.
In addition, because I was already in the business I knew I had a strong relationship with wholesale retailers so it would have been easy for me to smoothly serve the people,” the mayor said.
The other factor was a purely business one according to Radisigo.
“Many general dealers have closed in my area and in the city because they cannot compete with big establishments such as Spar and Choppies. Look at what happened at Chedu Choga complex. All supermarkets at the complex closed immediately when Fours Cash and Carry opened last year (near the complex). Where should small business owners like us go if we cannot benefit
“I am a resilient person, otherwise, I could have long closed the business a longtime ago because it is not fairly rewarding. My shop is more of a convenient store because it is surrounded by big supermarkets, so often times it does not make much money. It is struggling owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I felt that should I win the tender it would help me cushion the business from the brutal effects of COVID-19,” he added.
The mayor explained that the struggles of his business, which employs 14 people has worsened as a result of challenges, associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Radisigo pointed out that he believes that because of the current council tendering procedure there is now way he would have gained access to confidential information about the food supply tender.
“A decision was taken years ago that the political leadership should not be part of the council tendering process to guard against corruption. The council has an independent tender adjudication committee that features council employees and independent members of the public. None of the council executive members sit in the committee. The executive is only informed about decisions that have been taken with reference to awarding of tenders. They are not allowed to make any input because it would mean that the adjudication committee is not autonomous,” he said.
Radisigo further noted that the council has an independent appeals body that deals with concerns from those bidding for tenders. None of the executive members are also part of the committee according to the mayor.
“If mayors in our country had the executive powers enabling them to dictate the day to day business activities of the council such as in South Africa it would have been logical for people to complain about me winning the tender.
The mayoral position in Botswana is ceremonial, which makes it difficult to access information on tenders amongst others. I do not have a problem with people questioning my conduct as the city mayor, provided they do so from informed positions,” he said.
Radisigo noted that he had also written to the Town Clerk Lopang Pule declaring interest in the tender for the food supply.
“I even called him and informed him that I was merely trying my luck. I did not expect any favours.”
Pule has absolved Radisigo from any wrongdoing in relation to the tender.