What needs to change?
What needs to change?
Written by Oscar Nkala, Thursday, 19 December 2013
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has commissioned the country’s latest Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) which will be deployed as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaisance (ISR) platform in the fight against terrorism, maritime piracy and crude oil theft.
The UAV was unveiled in a ceremony on Tuesday attended by senior government officials and defence officials led by Air Force Chief of Staff Air Marshall Alex Badeh at the Kaduna Air Force base.
The aircraft, which has been named ‘Gulma’ meaning ‘gossip’ in the local Hausa language, was produced by the Nigerian Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) with the help of aerospace engineers from Cranfield University in Britain. Since 2007, the British institution has partnered the AFTI as part of the Nigerian government’s bid to develop an in-house capacity for advanced aviation design, research and development.
Powered by a 17 hp engine, the Gulma is built on a composite aluminium alloy structure, operates via radio control on a Micro Pilot FCS avionics system and weighs 40 kilogrammes.
It has a maximum cruise range of 923 km and a top flight speed of 86 knots. It can cruise at a maximum altitude of 10 000 feet and has an endurance of up to 5.8 hours. The AFIT team has so far trained 15 pilots to operate its growing fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles.
Speaking at the unveiling ceremony Jonathan said the unveiling of the aircraft is a milestone in Nigeria’s bid to develop a domestic defence and aerospace industry.
“Besides its diverse military applications, the UAV provides us with a range of benefits in disaster management, power line surveys, law enforcement operations, telecommunications, weather monitoring and aerial imaging/mapping. It is also becoming an important tool in news coverage, environmental safety monitoring, and oil and gas exploration surveys,” Jonathan said.
He said that through innovative research and development programmes, the Nigerian Navy, Air Force and Army engineering divisions have in the course of this year produced the country’s first indigenous navy combat vessel, armoured personnel carrier (APC) and bomb detection and disposal equipment.
Badeh said the launch of the Gulma underlines the country’s strong resolve to achieve self-sufficiency in military aviation technology and capability. “The Gulma has been designed to meet vast expectations and needs. It could be employed by the armed forces and security agencies for the protection of Nigeria. We also envisage viable partnerships with agencies such as National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in the area of disaster management and the Nigerian Air Space Management Agency (NAMA) in the area of weather forecasting,” Badeh said.
He said the government should upgrade the AFIT from a limited innovative research outfit into a viable aircraft production centre with the capacity to mass-produce indigenous UAVs. Acting defence minister Labaran Maku said Nigeria needs a comprehensive policy to support the development of indigenous UAVs to enhance the operations of security services presently battling the Boko Haram insurgency in the north and maritime crimes and oil theft in the Gulf of Guinea and Niger Delta areas.
He said it is important for the Air Force to allow other security agencies to incorporate its UAVs into their operations so that the whole sector can make use of their full strategic potential. “Emphasis should now be placed on the harmonisation of our research and development programmes towards the attainment of a common goal to transform the Nigerian Armed Forces into one of the top fighting forces in the world.
“Working hand in hand with NAF and other (security) services, the Federal Ministry of Defence shall sustain its efforts at encouraging local content in its pursuit of military asset acquisition. Also the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigerian (DICON) shall be further empowered to provide support to the services in their respective and collective research and development efforts,” Maku said.
Earlier this year the Nigerian Air Force flew two indigenously developed unmanned aerial vehicles, which were presumed to be versions of the Amebo, which was unveiled at Air Expo 2012 in Kaduna. The Amebo I, II and III UAVs were developed by MSc students from the Air Force Institute of Technology. At the Air Expo, AFIT stated that test flights for Amebo I and II had been carried out by UK pilots in 2010 and 2011, but that a NAF pilot would perform the Amebo III test flight.
By: Natalie Greve
Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel has said that all the major South African civil engineering and construction companies currently active in the sector have been involved in infrastructure-related collusion and price-fixing.
“This problem is huge and pervasive in the infrastructure space,” he said at the inaugural Project and Construction Management Professions Conference on Thursday.
The State reportedly lost billions of rands through large-scale collusion and price-fixing by private sector companies during several past infrastructure projects, which instigated investigations by the Competition Commission into several completed public build projects.
These enquiries, which included investigations into the Gautrain project and several stadium developments, uncovered substantial evidence of collusion and price fixing by private sector participants, the Minister noted.
In cases involving critical projects, a number of companies came forward to acknowledge their involvement in the unlawful practises, Patel added.
“We have received about 400 admissions of incidents of collusion by companies in the sector,” he commented.
South African Council for the Project and Construction Management Professions (SACPCMP) president Professor Raymond Nkado said he was “shocked” that registered members of the SACPCMP had been found to have been involved.
“As a council, we have decided that we might take additional disciplinary action against these [companies],” he said.
Based on the evidence gleaned from the commission’s investigations, which indicated the pervasiveness of the involvement by private companies, it was decided to introduce a “fast-track settlement process”, which would avoid lengthy legal processes that could persist for up to eight years, and which Patel said could potentially distract the project management process.
“We approached the industry and said we were prepared to put a voluntary disclosure process on the table, which would bring this to a conclusion expeditiously. In return, what is required is full disclosure, a commitment to end the cartels and an acceptance that the law must take its course,” he explained.
Once the disclosure process had been completed and admission of guilt received, the commission would then determine appropriate fines or penalties related to the value of the project.
Several such processes between the Competition Commission and private companies were currently under way, with most in the final stages, where the extent of the penalty was being determined in cases where organisations were “improperly enriched”.
Patel added that the first company to come forward and admit collusion would receive preferential treatment in terms of the penalty levied.
“We also take into account the extent of cooperation, so that there is an incentive to come clean. However, these companies will still have to pay substantial penalties as prescribed by the Competition Act,” he cautioned.
In cases where investigations implicated public servants, this information would be referred to law enforcement agencies.
There would be public disclosure once settlements had been reached.
Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi added that the findings of the investigation challenged the common perception that corruption and malgovernance was only pervasive in the public sector.
“The opinion that only government has such problems has been proved incorrect. There are huge problems in the private sector and we must expose them,” he said, encouraging the private sector to engage in “self reflection”.
Nxesi noted that key to the prevention of corruption in infrastructure projects was the establishment of a strong financial system, transparent procurement processes and incentivisation.
Moreover, Patel advised that the competition authorities had used the findings of the investigations to identify networks and channels used by companies in collusive practises and had identified the lead players and managers.
This would be used to develop internal preventive controls to reduce the opportunity for future collusion.
In addition, Patel said the CEO of any company awarded an infrastructure tender would be required to sign an “integrity pact” that committed them to competitive and noncorrupt practises and to create a culture in their organisation in which anticompetitive behaviour was discouraged.
“This will require executives to commit personal responsibility and liability,” he said.
The integrity pact was currently being piloted in a number of infrastructure tenders and would be fully implemented throughout the course of this year.
Patel said it was critical that the new phase of national infrastructure development not be characterised by similar high levels of collusion and price-fixing.
“Companies will have to make an important calculation. In the past, they thought collusion was a no-brainer; that they would secure the contract and walk away with the money. Now they see that we have developed the investigatory capacity to track the evidence down and to bring companies to book. That is the most important breakthough for us,” he said.
BY PAUL FAUVET,
The project dates back to 2003, and was intended to completely rehabilitate both the Sena line, running from Beira to the Moatize coal basin in Tete province, and the Machipanda line, from Beira to Zimbabwe.
This involved farming out management of the two lines to the Beira Railroad Company (CCFB), in which 51 per cent of the shares were held by the Indian consortium RICON (Rites and Icon International), and 49 per cent by the Mozambican port and rail company, CFM.
RICON was the dominant partner and was supposed to be in charge of the complete reconstruction of the Sena Line (which had ceased running in 1983, thanks to comprehensive sabotage by the apartheid-back Renamo rebels), and of bringing the Machipanda line up to scratch.
The World Bank was initially enthusiastic about the project, and backed it up with a loan of 104 million US dollars. The tender won by RICON was supervised by the World Bank and the award to RICON was approved by the bank. The concession contract between the government and Ricon/CCFB stated that the entire system should be rehabilitated by January 2009, and that RICON would not only manage CCFB, but would be the main contractor on rebuilding the Sena line and its bridges.
The Mozambican authorities, and CFM, soon began to sound the alarm. Ricon kept missing deadlines, and its work failed to observe technical standards. CFM and the Independent Engineer hired to assess progress both warned about these matters, but the World Bank was conspicuously silent – the Bank’s unit supervising the project took no notice of the warnings.
Ricon argued that it could not meet the January 2009 deadline for completing reconstruction of the Sena line because of the floods in the Zambezi valley in 2007 and 2008. So the government gave Ricon a further six months.
That deadline ran out, and the Sena line was still nowhere near complete. The government tried to switch the management of CCFB to CFM, but RICON used its majority on the CCFB board to block this.
When President Armando Guebuza made a state visit to India in 2010, he discussed the transfer of management power from RICON to CFM. The Indian government agreed, according to Transport Minister Paulo Zucula, but RICON still resisted. Finally, in December 2010 the Mozambican government decided to rescind the contract with RICON.
The World Bank has now issued an Implementation Completion and Results Report (ICR), dated 27 June, which is a damning indictment of the World Bank staff involved in the project. It describes the outcome of the project as “unsatisfactory”, the risk to development outcome as “substantial”, and the bank performance as “unsatisfactory”. The performance of the borrower (the Mozambican government) is described as “moderately unsatisfactory”.
The main project objectives were not remotely achieved. Thus the original goal was to have the Sena line able to carry one million tonnes of cargo a year by the end of 2009. In fact, the line was only opened to coal traffic on 8 August 2011, with freight running at 266,000 tonnes a year – just 27 per cent of the initial target 20 months late.
International traffic on the Machipanda line was supposed to rise from 480,000 tonnes a year in 2004 to 650,000 tonnes in 2009. In fact, if fell, by 2011, to 387,700 tonnes. “The potential for traffic on this line is good (and evidence by the increase in road traffic), but poor infrastructure prevents the railway from getting its share”, commented the ICR report.
All 317 kilometres of the Machipanda line were supposed to be rehabilitated. But in fact not a single kilometre was upgraded. “No rehabilitation and very little (if any) maintenance during the concession period”, remarked the report. “The Machipanda line has deteriorated further and is in fact in worse condition that at the start of the project”.
The overall reliability of the Beira rail system was supposed to improve substantially. The target was that the percentage of track under temporary restrictions should fall from 10 per cent in 2004 to two per cent in 2009. In fact, the figure rose to 16.6 per cent in 2011.
As the conflict between Ricon and the Mozambican authorities deepened, the World Bank’s Project Implementation Unit (PIU) ended up taking Ricon’s side, despite the clear evidence that it was in violation of its contractual obligations. The report admits that “The PIU eventually acted on behalf of the contractor. Despite all the documented delays, the contractor was never penalized”.
That was not the fault of the Mozambicans – the report adds that “all requests by CFM for the PIU to take action against the Contractor for poor execution of the works were ignored”.
One shocking example was that RICON was allowed to relax specifications for ballast to be used on the Sena line despite protests by both CFM and the Independent Engineer.
Furthermore, “the best skilled engineers were prematurely sent back home by the Concessionaire (CCFB), and subsequently replaced by incompetent staff, with the approval of the PIU. Despite repeated objections by the CFM and the Mozambican government, no action was taken to reverse these decisions”.
World Bank staff on the ground just covered up the problems. The report comes close to accusing them of lying to the Bank’s head office. It says “Remarkably, all of the Bank’s supervision reports during the critical stages (2005-2010) gave the project an overall rating of ‘satisfactory’ or ‘moderately satisfactory’. Despite the virulent correspondence between the parties to the contract and the persistent negative reports by the Independent Engineer, the project ratings were never revised and as a result corrective action was never taken”.
The report concludes that the Bank staff had no idea what they were doing – though it puts this in somewhat more diplomatic terms: “The Bank supervision team did not have the requisite engineering skills and competencies to make sense of the implications of the issues raised by the Independent Engineer”.
There were “significant discrepancies” between the Implementation Status Reports produced by the Bank staff and the reports from the Independent Engineer. Thus the Bank staff, in late 2007, were cheerfully forecasting that the Sena line’s first phase would open in early 2008, while at much the same time the Independent Engineer was warning that there was no chance to meet the completion deadlines.
Only when there was a change in the Bank’s supervision and management staff (in 2010) did the World Bank wake up to the seriousness of the situation. It was too late – the loan had already been disbursed.
There had been a chance to change course with the mid-term review in June 2008. By then the project had an alarming cost overrun of 50 million dollars, and construction work was around eight months behind schedule. But the Bank team excused the increase costs as “understandable”.
The ICR report notes “Rather than addressing the incompetence of the Concessionaire as a major bottleneck, the mid-term review pointed to the failure in negotiations over the coal tariff (which was a fairly recent development) and the threat of termination by he government as the main risk to Project progress. This was a missed opportunity to consider Project changes and re-direction”.
The overall message of the report is very clear – after a two year delay and cost overrun of over 50 million dollars, the key goals of the project were not met. The Sena line is not handling the expected level of traffic, and the condition of the Machipanda line is worse than before the project began.
The ICR report expresses a worry that the collapse of the CCFB concession “might trigger a negative perception of public-private partnerships in Mozambique that could reverberate to other sectors or even other countries in the region”.
The Bank is ideologically committed to public-private partnerships – but outsiders might note that the Beira Railway Project is just an extreme example of the recurrent theme in such partnerships that the public sector takes the risk while the private partner walks away with the profit.
October 21, 2011
Texas-based engineering, procurement and construction management company S&B Engineers & Constructors has been awarded a contract by South African energy and chemicals group Sasol to construct its ethylene tetramerisation plant at Lake Charles, Louisiana.
The plant will use Sasol’s proprietary technology to convert ethylene to 1-octene and 1-hexene. This unique process was developed in Sasol’s South Africa-based research and development laboratories, and selectively produces alpha olefins required for the high-growth polymer markets.
Engineers and scientists from Sasol North America worked with an international team to design the unit, which will use the new technology on an industrial manufacturing scale.
“We are committed to providing Sasol and the local community with a safe working environment and a world-class project,” says S&B Engineers & Constructors presidentJames Slaughter Jr.
Sasol senior group executive for operations André de Ruyter reports that the project is targeted for start-up in mid-2013, and will produce 100 000 t/y of combined 1-octene and 1-hexene.
With current production of over 350 000 t/y, Sasol is a major producer of comonomer range alpha olefins. The higher olefins 1-octene and 1-hexene are used as comonomers in the manufacture of linear low-density polyethylene, high-density poly- ethylene and elastomers.
Further, the products impart elasticity and strength to plastic used in consumer products such as food packaging, bags, toys, automotive interiors and power cable coatings.