Lawsuit over Khama’s new home

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Government’s controversial decision to suspend and reverse the refurbishment of 11,000m2 floor space of President Ian Khama’s new offices, Orapa House, has attracted a lawsuit from a citizen contractor.

Orapa House previously housed Diamond Trading Company (DTC). Lawyers for Katz Holdings Contractors which emerged victorious from the recommendation stage is suing.

The government recently announced that the Office of the President (OP) will finally relocate to the highly secured Orapa House after the controversy over the ownership and worth of the building was sorted out. This issue has marred Parliament for the last two years.

The procuring entity, the Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology (MIST) and  the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) had taken a decision that only four companies namely, Murray&Roberts, Landmark Projects, Stefanutti Stocks and Katz Holdings (PTY) Ltd were eligible to refurbish the envisaged State President Ministry - Orapa House. Murray&Roberts is the constructor of Orapa House which was contructed some decades ago.

Mmegi can reveal that the move to list the four companies was taken after it emerged that not many companies in Botswana had the capacity to do the required work. The work requires a category D certificate - high rise. The tendering process went well until recently when it emerged that the government has now taken a decision to suspend and re-advertise the tender which was at the awarding stage. Mmegi investigations revealed that Katz Holdings was the recommended contractor after scoring 76,6%. The other three contractors were disqualified at the technical stage.

Katz Holdings has confirmed that they have engaged their lawyers in the matter. “Of course it is true that we have engaged our lawyers after learning of several irregularities in relation to the said tender,” said Chitutu Takobana, a senior officer at Katz Holdings.

Takobana said they learnt of the tender suspension and re-advertisement through the media. “The process is that when any decision is taken in a case of cancellation or suspension, stakeholders in this case the four contractors are called for what we call debriefing. That however never took place until we wrote a letter to the authotities complaining. We only received a call after we enquired about the debriefing on Thursday (yesterday). We then sent our lawyers to the debriefing,” said Takobana.

Takobana said a letter was sent to PPADB from the Department of Engineering and Building Services (DEBS) acting director to re-advertise hence this mess. “These things happen every day. We know them and we know that there must be conflict of interest somewhere. Why can’t they be happy that citizens will be building the President’s office? They want foreigners again who will be nowhere to be found when the building cracks,” alluded Takobana.

The Permanent Secretary in MIST, Dikagiso Mokotedi, confirmed that they have taken a decision to re-advertise the tender.

 “It is true that we have not awarded the tender. The reasons are that the contractor’s budget proposal was way beyond our budget and it would have been risky to proceed in that way. We are still discussing the matter as the government on the way forward,” said Mokotedi. The government’s budget is estimated to be around P180 million.

Mokotedi said the controversial move will obviously affect the relocation of the OP due to the delays. “We are still weghing the pros and cons of the entire issues within and will see whether to close the tender or open it,” he said. About the intended lawsuit by Katz Holdings, Mokotedi said lawsuits are the least of their worries. “Look we sympathise with the contractor but lawsuits are part of the trade.”

Prior to the selection of the four contractors there were concerns from the leadership over who should be tasked with refurbishment of the OP. This was after Khama gave the project caretakers the word that, “things should be done properly.” The caretakers understood the President to mean that stern measures should be put in place to avoid a growing catastrophical culture of structural failures and unessesary over expenditures.

The President has in the past spoken angrily against the Chinese contractors whom he has repeatedly accused of ruining the country’s developmental agenda. The Chinese, popularly known for their insatiable appetite and good standing for mega projects might however be eligible to bid should the tender be opened.

The architecture of Orapa House is perfectly designed for grading diamonds taken from Botswana’s diamond mines. Natural, rather than direct sunlight is essential for the sorting process. It is also capable of standing earth tremors.


Profiles of shortlisted contractors


Murray & Roberts

Murray & Roberts, a South African company has been present and operating in Botswana for more than four decades, making a significant contribution to the development of the country during this period.

As a subsidiary of leading South Africa-based JSE listed engineering and contracting Group, Murray & Roberts, the company’s core strength is its superior construction as well as construction management ability, with regard to structures requiring bricks and/or concrete materials, featuring a combination of scale, complexity and a design/build aspect.

With its proud history and track record of successful project delivery spanning more than 40 years, Murray & Roberts (Botswana) says it is committed to remaining an industry leader, delivering world class fulfillment in all that it does.

Its project highlights include the Central Business District’s tallest building I-Tower Phase 1, Tati Nickel Mine, First National Bank Botswana headquarters in Gaborone, Rail Park Mall, Airport Road Development Gaborone, Distribution Depot and Warehouses Gaborone, Jwaneng Mine Cut 8 Civils, Jwaneng Mine Slimes Dam No. 7, Bulk Diamond Sorting Centre (BDVC), FNBB building in Francistown and Shashe River Bridge.


Katz Holdings

Katz Holdings, the recommended contractor is 100% citizen owned and specialises in construction and maintenance solutions, property development, project development, project management services, security services and cleaning services.

Boasting of high qualifications in the industry, Katz has constructed several buildings in the country including the refurbishment of Kerekeng Flats, construction of Sub Land Board offices in Kweneng, construction of additional facilities at Lekgwabeng Primary School, construction of several private and government flats in the country, construction of Mogoditshane Senior Secondary School as well as construction and maintenance of Mahalapye Primary School among many others.


Stefanutti Stocks

Stefanutti Stocks is one of South Africa’s leading engineering and construction groups with an annual turnover in excess of R7 billion, over 9,000 employees and the capabilities to deliver a range of projects of any scale to a multitude of clients in diverse markets. Their operating sectors  include structures, roads and earthworks, property and concession, mining services, mechanical, electrical and power, interior fit-out and the construction and building sector.

They say their clients include governments, parastatals and local authorities, major mining houses, leaders of industry, large corporate groups, financial institutions and property developers. The company is active in South Africa and across sub Saharan Africa including South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is also active further abroad in the Middle East region.

The Botswana building division has undertaken a variety of projects for both private and public sector clients. In 2003 they completed the remote Maun Hospital, they have completed numerous retail and leisure facilities and were also the proponents of the first office accommodation public private partnership in Botswana in 2007.

In South Africa they operate in structures, roads and earthworks, property and concessions, mining services, mechanical, electrical and power as well as the construction and building sector. In the Middle East region their operations cover interior fit-outs, refurbishments, electro-mechanical installations and construction.


Landmark Projects

A company headed by a Chinese, Mr Ben Liu but 100% citizen owned. . Landmark has been delivering professional construction and development services for 16 years and its mission is to be nationally recognised as an excellent construction industry. The company says its registration with PPADB  as appended confirms the company’s ability to take on projects of unlimited value in both general building and civil engineering industry.

The company’s previous clientele includes high profile Botswana businesses and government such as Pop Inn, Botswana Power Corporation, Botswana Development Corporation, Pula Projects, Charlton Electrical, Sasa Investments, DBES, Botswana Housing Cooperation, Jwaneng Town Council, Botswana Defence Force, the then Ministry of Works and Transport, Kgatleng District Council, Botswana Meat Commission, government and North West District Council.


Orapa House politics

Orapa House has been plagued in controversy for some time. At the forefront is whether the OP and the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning have overiden a decision by Parliament which rejected the proposal to buy the building under the belief “that government may be buying own property”.

The building was to be bought at a negotiated cost of P79 million. In 2012 the then Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Mokgweetsi Masisi, withdrew his request in Parliament for funds to buy Orapa House from De Beers after details emerged that the building could be belonging to the Botswana government. Masisi advised the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Kenneth Matambo, to take up the matter and investigate it. Masisi later confirmed that, “the house has been fully paid for and now belongs to the government”.

In 2012 Masisi withdrew his proposal following a decision by the Finance and Estimates Committee not to approve the funds request. This was after the intervention by the then Tati West MP, Charles Tibone, who argued that Botswana government may find itself buying a building that actually belongs to the tax payer already. The government had wanted to buy the Orapa House for “a negotiated P79 million” but the Finance and Estimates Committee rejected the request because of the inconsistencies realised in the supporting documents of the proposed procurement. The valuation of the building was put at P74 million. The Ministry of Lands and Housing had initially offered De Beers P73 million as purchase price. However, De Beers countered with an P85 million price tag. On negotiation the selling price was finally agreed at P79 million.

The building became vacant after Diamond Trading Company (DTC) relocated to the state of the art building along the Airport Road in Block 8.

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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