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Panic as SPEDU goes under the hammer

Government attorneys were working around the clock this week to avert the possibility of SPEDU (PTY) Limited being auctioned today.

This follows a writ of execution obtained against SPEDU last month by a company that won a works contract for the design and build of Phase I infrastructure in Bolelanoto and Senwelo industrial sites in Selebi-Phikwe. Attorneys for Marcian Concepts, which won the tender, have instructed sheriff or his deputy to attach and take into execution the movable goods of SPEDU and of the same to be caused to be realised by public auction to the sum of P31, 823, 337.71 following failure to reach compliance with requirements of the contract.

By end of January 2021, the contractor was entitled to suspended related costs totalling P48, 233, 000,39.

This is thanks to the director general of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), Peter Magosi who ordered the cancellation of the contract thereby sabotaging the much awaited 3500-job development project in the ghost town of Selebi-Phikwe. Meanwhile, on March 29, 2021 acting SPEDU chief executive officer (CEO), Jazenga Uezesa requested the contractor’s indulgence for 14 working days effective March 30, 2021 to April 16, 2021 in order to continue engagements with the relevant stakeholders on the matter.

The government is the sole shareholder in SPEDU. In response to Uezesa, attorney Mompati Sepego acting for Marcian Concepts said the acting CEO’s request for indulgence is acceded to, subject to his client’s conditions. The first condition is that the parties resolve all the issues pending between them and the second one is that two outstanding certificates are paid or an indication of when payment will be made should be incorporated in SPEDU’s response. The last condition is that the suspension imposed is uplifted as at April 16, 2021 and the contractor is given access to the site so that implementation of the contract resumes.

The SPEDU board chairperson, Obonetse Mothelesi recently suggested a way forward to the Permanent Secretary (PS) - Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Bonolo Khumotaka, saying that they support whole-heartedly investigations of whatever nature to be carried out by the relevant authority. “If there be any corruption allegations, it is important that they be duly investigated,” Mothelesi said.

However, he said the contract could not lawfully be suspended due to ongoing investigations.

“There may be circumstances where the outcome of investigations might lead to the suspension of the contract, but that is not the case now as no one knows the outcome at this stage. It is for this reason that we humbly request that you lift the suspension of funding so that the project can proceed uninterrupted,” he asserted.

Lastly, he said in the event that Khumotaka takes the view that the suspension should not be lifted, they proposed that government issues in favour of the contractor an irrevocable guarantee for the costs arising out of the suspension of the contract so as to protect and indemnify the employer from a possible lawsuit by the contractor. On issues of financial costs relating to the suspension, he said the investigations would not be to the prejudice of the contractor who has not been found guilty of any wrongdoing by a court of law, nor could the contractor forfeit any due payments unless it is at fault in terms of the contract.

He also said the contractor is entitled to extension of time, with cost at the expense of the employer. The contractor may also sue the employer for contractual damages arising out of breach of contract, including finance charges, which could run into millions of pula. “For instance, as shown alone, the contractor has already procured 15 vehicles, and it expects to receive advance payment of P18, 327, 019,58 that has been due since 15th of August 2020. In terms of the Bills of Quantities (BOQ), the contractor is entitled to submit a claim and be paid for the procured vehicles and any other claim.”  The PS did respond. The board chairperson also wrote to the PS in the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry, Keganele Malikongwa seeking her urgent assistance in the matter. He told Malikongwa that SPEDU has been engaging the responsible parties on this matter since the instruction to suspend the works was issued, but to no avail.

The Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Peggy Serame referred Mmegi to her PS since she was in a meeting. The PS could not be reached at the time of going to press.


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