The government has admitted that it made a wrong decision in placing the blame squarely on one of millers who supply it with supplementary food for infants.
This is contained in a letter dated 22 March 2022 from the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Molefi Keaja, addressed to Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) official, Lucas Kennekae.
Titled “Request for Contract Extension of Tsabana and Malutu in Respect to Ultimex Holdings,” the letter was in response to one from PPADB dated 16 March 2022 about the ministry’s request for a contract extension in favour of Ultimex Holdings (Pty) Ltd for which the Board required clarity on a number of issues.
In his letter, Keaja explains that the ministry did not terminate the contract as stated “in our correspondence date the 15th October 2020 as it later emerged in our meeting with the supplier on the 28th January 2021 that we also had issues of lack of storage and delayed payments which the supplier raised as some of the impediments to supply”.
He says the primary reason the ministry was requesting an extension of the contract was for the Ultimex Holdings to continue supplying pending completion of a new tender. “Furthermore, the purpose of securing a new supplier for the three months required would take time as well,” he points out. “The GPOs for Malutu and Tsabana were issued on 29th May 2020 and on 8th April 2020, respectively.”
According to Keaja, the shortfall in supplies was addressed by rationalising the quantities from other Food Relief Services (FRS) Depots to curb acute shortage at the affected ones to mitigate the impact on stakeholders. “The depot managers were allowed to rationalise stocks supplied by both Ultimex Holdings and Foods Botswana,” he notes. “The supplier was notified in both writing and meeting on the negative impact the erratic supply had on the beneficiaries.”
He adds that the ministry will intensify monitoring performance of Ultimex. “The Director, Procurement & Project Management and Director, the Department of Finance & Procurement Services, to monitor the project going forward,” he writes in the letter. The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and Ultimex recently traded accusations over alleged bitter taste and caking texture of Malutu and Tsabana products of Ultimex raised by beneficiaries and other stakeholders.
It is understood that on 10 March 2022, PPADB rejected the ministry’s request through the Department of Local Government Finance and Procurement Services for a contract extension for Ultimex Holdings (Pty) Ltd for a tender for Manufacture, Supply and Delivery of Sorghum Soya Weaning Food (Tsabana) for five months. The Board of PPADB approved a contract extension of only one month.
But following an explanation and motivation for a contract extension of five months, the Board agreed to extend the Ultimex contract 16 March 2022 to 16 August 2022. PPADB also approved Department of Finance and Procurement Services’ request for “extension of contract regarding the tender for A framework contract for Manufacture, Supply and Delivery of Sorghum Soya Food (Malutu) for Ultimex Holdings (Pty) Ltd from 26th May 2022 to 26th August 2022.”
This publication had previously reported that while the government seemed to have concluded that Ultimex was to blame, documents showed that the government failed for more than a year to act on the company’s recommendations that could have prevented the supplementary food from becoming unfit for human consumption.
This is gleaned from a letter dated 21May 2021 from the Managing Director of Ultimex Terrence Peloewetse to the Director of the Department of Local Government Finance and Procurement Services, Olebogeng Moipisi. In the letter, Peloewetse raises a concern that “any failure in the delivery chain might be unfairly perceived to be associated with us as the contracted party”.
At the time the letter was written, stakeholders in Botswana’s South East Region, including clinics, had not had supplies of Malutu and Tsabana for more than a month. “All your depots had refused us to deliver any more stocks claiming that we have overstocked them,” Peloewetse wrote to Moipisi.