- 5bn budgeted for infrastructure projects under TNDP
- Over 140 projects to be undertaken through the new model
- Private sector involvement heightened and risks to be apportioned
The government is re-introducing a long-abandoned project delivery model to undertake infrastructure development projects as a means of curbing corruption and speeding up project completion.
Addressing the media after the launch of the model known as the Development Managers (DM) model on Tuesday this week, the Minister of Transport and Public Works, Eric Molale, said DM entails engineering, procurement and construction.
“The process is such that not everything is done by bureaucrats,” he explained. “A lot of work is given to the private sector. This is in line with the policy announced of the private sector taking the lead.”
Minister Molale noted that this model is not new to Botswana. The first project to be developed through it was the Shashe Complex which began in 1969. It was a number of projects that had to be undertaken simultaneously by the government when Selibe Phikwe mines were being established.
“We had to build the Shashe dam and the pipeline from the dam to Selibe-Phikwe,” said the minister. “We also had to build the railway line from Serule to Phikwe.”
This involved building the town of Selibe-Phikwe itself from scratch, including schools and hospitals. Molale noted that while the government might have thought it was a once-in-a-while model at the time, it has proven reliable and effective for project delivery today.
“If you look around the neighbouring countries, they actually copied it from us,” he said. “Projects developed through this model can vary in size.
“So we have officially, as the government, embraced to be the way to go. There have been concerns that if we go through this method, we are denying Batswana employment and other opportunities.”
However, Molale said the concerns are misplaced because Shashe Complex was the biggest project ever for jobs project in Botswana in 1974 with the DM model in play. His outlook is that the government is going to use the model and grow domestic companies to such levels that they can compete internationally.
“As we start these projects, we are going to be employing more people. The instruction is to observe our citizen economic empowerment laws, policies, strategies and programmes,” he said. “But of course, there is a threat. The ever-rising price of fuel as a result of the Ukraine/Russia war and recently the Israel/Hamas conflict is going to pose a problem cost-wise.”
The minister said the nine DMs will carry out 143 projects of various sizes, among them the A3 Highway which runs from Francistown to Maun via Nata. He added that citizen contractors and consultants are encouraged to get ready. In addition to citizen empowerment, fairness and transparency are to be the order of the day. “We discourage hoarding, insider trading, soliciting, and everything that points to lack of a value system,” said the minister.
Molale noted that vigilance will be necessary because the downside of any model, especially in the construction sector, is collusion and insider trading which are the hallmarks of corruption. “But why did we say this model is going to curb corruption? It will. There are various sectors. There is the law and checks and balances,” he said.
Catalyst Project Team
He explained that there will be a Catalyst Project Team (CPT) because the owner engineers are all from the private sector and have been previously involved in other projects. “We have made them make an undertaking, under oath, to arouse their subconscious to know that this is not what has been happening,” he said. “We are also allocating risks. In all government projects before this model, 99.99 percent of the risks were on the government.”
Under this model, the minister explained, risks will apportioned so that those who do work for the government also carry some risks in case something happens and some entity has to pay. “Therefore, if risks are apportioned, people will come to their senses and know that if I do anything mischievous, I will ultimately be held accountable,” he emphasised.
“Another aspect of this issue of curbing corruption is that the Permanent Secretary is empowered by the new procurement law to oversee everybody who has a part in this.” This means that the Permanent Secretary will be held accountable, should any or all of the parties in the project be found to have been involved in corruption.
“But if there is something that has to do with policy and the law, the minister will be held accountable because the minister doesn’t get involved in procurement,” he noted. “So it is about people knowing that they are going to be held accountable. That helps curb corruption drastically, which hasn’t been the case. Of course, corrupt people are smart people.
“They always find ways of cutting corners. But at least there is a process and system to be on the watch to detect any action that may point towards corruption.”
When launching the model recently, President Mokgweetsi Masisi said infrastructure projects to be carried out under the Transitional National Development Plan (TNDP) through the DM model have been budgeted at P13.5 billion. Describing it as huge by Botswana standards, he said it reiterates the commitment by the government to infrastructure development. According to the President, the government had to adopt this model due to implementation challenges experienced in infrastructure projects in the past.
“We have experienced problems of cost overruns,” he said. “This has in the past slowed economic growth.” President Masisi emphasised there is insufficient competence in project management and implementation inspite of the policies and strategies in place. “There has also been a tendency to commit the government to huge contracts without qualified contract managers,” he said.