SELEBI-PHIKWE: The Directorate of Intelligence and Security has put the brakes on the SPEDU Industrial and Urban Agriculture Land Service project, a 3,500-job development President Mokgweetsi Masisi highlighted with hope in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.
“The construction of the SPEDU Industrial and Urban Agriculture Land Servicing project commenced in August 2020 and it is expected to be completed by June 2023,” Masisi told the nation on Monday.
“Once complete, the project is expected to create 3,500 jobs with an investment of P1.2 billion.” It appears the President was unaware that the works contract for the design and building of Phase 1 infrastructure in Bolelanato and Senwelo Industrial Sites in Selebi-Phikwe was halted, thanks to the DIS.
Even though the project commenced in August as Masisi said, there was a funding hiatus from the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services.
The DIS informed the contractor about an investigation and instructed them to halt the project. It is alleged that the DIS suspects the contractor is aligned to former president Ian Khama hence the investigation.
The project has been divided into two phases and the P230.5 million Phase 1 works contract entails the provision of detailed designs of infrastructure, construction of road works, storm water drains, water reticulation, sewer pump stations, power reticulation, street lighting and telecommunications.
Its period of performance is estimated to be 15 months with a 12 months defects notification period.
Around July 2019, SPEDU Limited floated the tender and Marcian Concepts (PTY) Ltd was declared a successful bidder on June 3, 2020 and accepted the offer.
The losing bidder Lempehu Investments (PTY) Ltd approached the Gaborone High Court on urgency and lost before Justice Godfrey Radijeng in August. In an interview last month, a contractor at the site said they were within schedule as they were busy with mobilisation and establishment, bush clearing and grading.
Marcian Concepts (Pty) Ltd is a 100% citizen-owned construction company based in Gaborone. Mmegi has been enquiring on the status of the project for a month, but no answers have been forthcoming from the land ministry and SPEDU.
Only the DIS’ spokesperson, Edward Robert responded to our questions.
Robert said the DIS’ mandate established under the Intelligence and Security Service Act (2008) requires it to routinely advise ministries and government departments on security issues as and when risks are identified.
“The Directorate therefore cannot dictate or express preferences outside its mandate as that would be tantamount to interfering with the mandate of the Public Procurement
For his part, the Member of Parliament for Selebi-Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse said the Ministry of Lands needs to confirm whether they have been instructed by the DIS not to release funds for the just-awarded project in Selebi-Phikwe.
“This is what we hear has stalled the project, besides the recent Court case. We would also want to know the interest of the DIS in mega tenders, especially this one,” Keorapetse said.
He also said they understand that the Ministry has issued an instruction to the SPEDU company to suspend the execution of the much awaited Land Servicing Project in Selebi-Phikwe. “We need the Ministers to explain the rationale behind the suspension of the project and or when it will commence.
“What we cannot ascertain is whether there is a desire by someone or some people to ultimately give the tender to a certain company whose owner, we are made to believe by whistle-blowers, is a certain person with links to both the Botswana Democratic Party and individuals in the DIS echelons of power.”
He alleged that immediately after the tender was awarded, the DIS camped at SPEDU offices investigating how the tender was awarded but did not find anything.
“I understand they literally camped at SPEDU after the tender was awarded, purporting to be investigating impropriety and came out with absolutely nothing.
We understand the tender has been stopped by Ministry of Lands at the insistence of the DIS on the pretext that there are red flags. We want the project to restart as soon as possible so that the development continues and our people get jobs.”
Keorapetse added that he would ask questions during this session of Parliament because the project is important for job creation and greater development of Selebi-Phikwe.
“Selebi-Phikwe has been neglected for a while and we can’t allow the stalling of such a project. DIS is involved in this matter. We need to remove the DIS from tenders. They have become a very costly nuisance,” he said.
“We are also made to believe that the tender issue is that the awarded contractor is subtly accused of being former president Khama’s man or close to the opposition. We can’t be reduced to this level of pettiness.”