The government is scrambling to find buyers for abandoned buildings it bought for P93 million but found to have structural defects soon after occupation.
The government bought the buildings located at Gaborone International Finance Park between September 2005 and July 2006 but vacated them when it became apparent they were not structurally sound. The buildings housed the Auditor General’s office, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, the Criminal Investigation Department and Registrar of Companies. The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Bonolo Khumotaka opened a can of worms when she recently told the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Government Assurances (PSCGA) that the buildings are not attractive to property buyers, and as such, the government is struggling to dispose of them.
“The lots were advertised for disposal in 2016. Lot 181 did not attract a bidder while other lots were awarded to various companies, which rejected the offers.
The ministry is also exploring other disposal strategies, mainly through the expression of interest method,” Khumotaka briefed the MPs.
Members of the PSCGA were concerned that the public money the government wasted purchasing the buildings is due to corruption. Former Gabane- Mmankgodi MP, Pius Mokgware raised the alarm about the buildings when he asked the Minister of Lands and Housing whether the government owned the buildings. Mokgware had pushed the government into a corner by asking if they were thoroughly inspected before the purchase and who carried out the inspection. He also wanted to know if the buildings had structural defects and what the government was doing about that. He blasted the government, saying the lots were not worth the money spent on them. Former Minister of Lands and Housing, Prince Maele insisted the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services (DBES) carried out a thorough inspection of the buildings.
The government was recently caught in another similar scandal when it emerged that the Ministry of Basic Education (MoBE) is spending the taxpayers’ money to rent private property to the tune of millions of pula. According to The Patriot on Sunday, the MoBE abandoned its property at the Curriculum Development and Evaluation premises in favour of premises at Fairgrounds, for which it pays exorbitant rental fees. Asked why the ministry wasn’t using the property despite the money spent to refurbish it, ministry officials claimed the contractor vanished into thin air without doing the work they were paid for.
However, Chief Public Relations Officer at the MoBE, Oarabile Phefo explained that refurbishment works had resumed with hopes of re-occupying the property before the end of the year.
A local Real Estate expert and construction mogul urged the government to tap into private independent engineers to carry out inspections instead of relying solely on government agents.
“The government’s Department of Buildings and Engineering Services should not undertake all the inspections alone, they should be cross-examined by different experts. There are many cases where the government has been swindled out of money through the purchase of defective buildings,” he said.
While it’s not entirely surprising, the extent to which the murky waters of corruption spread across Botswana’s public sector is truly depressing. How does the government spend millions of pula in taxpayers’ on properties that are not appropriately inspected to ensure they are fit-for-purpose?
How does the government buy one property, abandon it and rent another for hideous amounts of the taxpayers’ money? How does the government pay for refurbishments before they are done and not hold to account the supposed contractor who apparently pulled a Houdini on the government How is whoever is in charge not hauled over the coals and held accountable for botching this up, are they still in the job? What happened to the contractor, did he get away scot-free? Are there even methodical data capturing procedures and processes that need following to plug these holes and stamp out corruption?
Was a thorough investigation carried into the mismanagement of public money and where it went royally wrong? How does the government guard against this happening repeatedly across its departments and ministries? Could it be that nobody is held accountable because the rot goes to the highest echelons of public office? When will the looting of the public purse end when it appears everyone has their hand in the cookie jar and brazenly rapes it with impunity? Will it only stop when the gravy train has been licked dry and Botswana becomes just another African state brought to its knees by greedy senior officials? Do they even care, or is it all about number one? And on and on the questions just keep coming.
Quite how my beloved country earned its reputation of being ‘the least corrupt country in Africa’ is perplexing! Are the standards so low that even with the extent of corruption scandals emerging every time I blink, a very corrupt Botswana still comes out smelling of roses when compared to the rest of Africa? In developed countries, ministers and senior civil servants are sacked for far less.
I guess everything is relative. Maybe it’s time we made peace with the fact that it’s not all that flattering to be the ‘least corrupt country in Africa’ because quite frankly, the prospect of other African countries trouncing Botswana in the corruption stakes is beyond chilling.
For the complete article: http://www.thepatriot.co.bw/news/item/8712-defective-buildings-cost-p93million.html