Probe Zesco $2bn contract

THE US$2 billion Kafue Gorge Lower power station contract that Zesco Limited has awarded to Sino Hydro Corporation must be probed and Government saved from paying US$800 million more to the Chinese company, civil rights activist Brebner Changala has demanded.

Mr. Changala has challenged the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to show interest in the matter where Government would be made to pay more to the highest bidder.

He said ACC should without fail probe ZESCO, adding that it was not time for the institution to pretend not to be aware of such economic misfortune being swept under the carpet in full view of its own alert officers.

Mr. Changala wondered whether the dissolution of the Zesco board eight months ago was to pave way for such costly dealings in the awarding of contracts at the institution.

“This could have been done in order to create space for a costly undertaking in the awarding of contracts at the institution, because no tangible reasons were advanced at the dissolution of the board. And now what we see is free for all and chaos in the management of this vital institution,” he said.

Mr. Changala demanded that somebody must account for the current crisis at Zesco where Government would be made to pay US$800 million more to Sino Hydro.

“Where is ACC in this whole mess, scandal? When did they stop sniffing graft? They will not be allowed to investigate this matter when officials concerned were out of Government. That is what we call persecution. Investigate them now while they are still in office and serving,” he said.

Mr. Changala said it was sad that Zesco Limited hurriedly signed the contract


without clearing the issues surrounding the awarding of the contract to the highest bidder.

He said it was baffling and shocking how Zesco Limited management went ahead to sign a contract without representatives from the Ministry of Works and Supply and Ministry of Energy or Ministry of Finance.

Mr. Changala said according to the documentation available, indications were that Sino Hydro was twice as expensive as the lowest bidder China Gezhouba Group Company Limited International (CGGC) whose bidding price was US$1.08 billion.

He said ACC should also investigate why Zesco Limited introduced in the bidding documents new post qualification criteria different from the pre-qualification phase of 2013.

“We know that these were made to disadvantage other companies because Zesco had already decided to award the contract to Sino. Let ACC also investigate why Government cancelled the contract awarded to Sino Hydro in 2011?.

“They must for the first time investigate a sitting government official involved or behind this deal and not to wait until one is out of office when they are in a weak position, it will be called persecution,” Mr. Changala said.

On Monday, Zesco awarded Sino Hydro a US$2billion contract leaving out the second highest bidder, China State Construction Company whose bidding price stood at US$1.36billion.

China State Construction Company is the world’s largest construction company with a total turn over last year of US$120billion, while the lowest bidder at US$1.08billion was CGGC, the contractor of the world’s largest 22000 megawatts capacity Three Gorges Power Station in China.

In 2012, after being fed up with continual delays and deadline setbacks, the Botswana Government fired Sino Hydro which was the primary contractor on Gaborone’s Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSKIA) Expansion Project Phase 2, with 95% of the works completed.

Sino hydro was made to pay daily fines amounting to BWP1.7million (USD$220’000) as a result of the delays in completion.

Despite assurances given to Botswana Minister of Infrastructure, Science and Technology (MIST) Johnnie Swartz during an on-site inspection in April, the project was not ready for hand over by July 2012.

Sino hydro however, disputes the validity of the Botswana government’s reason for termination of contract, stating that Government payment delays, constant redesigns and additional works were to blame for Phase 2’s delays and escalating costs.