By Phephile Motau
The E2.7 billion Mpakeni Dam and Associated Works project by the Eswatini Water and Agricultural Development Enterprise (ESWADE) is back in the tendering process but without any prequalification process this time. This is the Mkhondvo-Ngwavuma Water Augmentation Programme Phase IA (MNWAP) which came under the spotlight when it emerged that local companies had been left behind in the prequalification process for the Mpakeni Dam and Associated Works. Including the Permanent Access Road. Three foreign joint ventures (JVs) were prequalified for the project and a JV which includes a local company was left out. ESWADE cited that the CCI Mpakeni JV did not meet the financial and technical criteria set out in the prequalification document.
The MNWAP is and the project is designed to benefit 100 000 emaSwati, covering a total area of 30 000 ha. In addition, about 10 000 job opportunities will be created and local people will be targeted to benefit. The project targets seven chiefdoms in the Shiselweni Region.
The purpose of the Mkhondvo Ngwavuma Water Augmentation Project is to bring water to the Shiselweni Region through the construction of the Mpakeni Dam and water transfer from the Mkhondvo River.
The three companies which prequalified for the project are Limak Insaat Sanayi Ve Ticaret A.S. from Turkey; Sinohydro Bureau 8-15 Joint Venture (Sinohydro Bureau and Sinihydro Corporation Engineering Bureau) from China; and WBHO/Stefstocks Mpakeni JV Joint Venture (WBHO Construction (Pty) Ltd and Stefanutti Stocks (Pty) Ltd), South Africa.
However, the CCI Mpakeni JV lodged an appeal and argued that they exceeded the criteria set out, which included that the companies must have a cash flow of E240 million (US$15 million). ESWADE also stated that the JV did not demonstrate experience in embarkment dams.
The matter was further investigated by the Finance Portfolio Committee who tabled a report in the House of Assembly recommending that the Loan Bill to the African Development Bank (AfDB) for the project should be approved on condition three conditions, including that the pre-qualification phase and selection of preferred bidders that was concluded by ESWADE should be nullified since it was not only done outside the provision of the laws of the country but was also conducted prematurely before the Loan Bill was approved by Parliament.
The second condition is that the tender for the project should be approved, after parliament, not just the house has approved the Loan Bill and after it has received Royal Assent.
“The country’s existing legislation pertaining to public procurement and the construction industry should not only be observed but should be adhered to,” the report tabled and passed in Parliament read.
The portfolio committee further recommended that the significant involvement of local construction works taking place in the kingdom could not be overemphasized and the government should not be seen to be paying lip service to that requirement or apologetic about it. The portfolio committee said this was after all, in the best interest of the country’s economic growth.
A specific procurement notice by ESWADE invited for bids works without prequalification. It further states that the government has received financing from the AfDB towards the cost of the MNWAP and intends to apply part of it under the contract for the construction of Mpakeni Dam and Associated Works Including the Permanent Access Roads.
It is stated that bidding will be conducted through the Open Competitive Bidding (International)procedures as specified in the AfDB’s Procurement Framework for Bank Group Funded Operations.
The dam will have 1 800 000m3 earth/rock/clay fill and a 35m wide rectangular spillway with a plunge pool, an intake tower with elevated intakes and 2 x 2D bottom outlets. It also consists of the construction of the Mpakeni Dam Permanent Access Road consisting of a 15km single carriage double lane bitumen sealed road to the Mpakeni Dam site in the Shiselweni Region in Eswatini, for a construction period of 51 months.
Bids must be delivered to ESWADE Head Offices in Siphofaneni on or
before January 31, 2023, at 2 pm and Electronic Bidding will not be permitted. Bids will be publicly opened in the presence of the Bidders’ designated representatives and anyone who chooses to attend at the ESWADE offices on January 31, 2023. It was further stated that all Bids must be accompanied by a Bid Security of E56 million.
Meanwhile, the report by the finance portfolio committee stated that on May 21, they raised concerns which were responded to by the Minister of Finance with ESWADE officials where they asked amongst other things about the appeal process of the pre-qualification.
The committee said having carefully considered the responses from the minister, they deemed it necessary to meet with two key stakeholders – Inyatsi Construction and the Eswatini Public Procurement Regulatory Agency.
The ESPPRA Chief Executive Officer is said to have told the committee that they learnt about the matter in the print media, hence they approached ESWADE for further details. ESPPRA further informed the committee that it was concerning that Section 5 of the Procurement Act was not complied with when conducting the pre-qualification tendering process.
The committee found that there was no evidence produced either by ESWADE or the government suggesting that the African Development Bank (AfDB) was already involved even before the Loan Bill was approved by Parliament.
It was also found that the process of the pre-qualification executed by ESWADE fell outside the provisions of the Procurement Act No.7 of 2011.