DCEO probes Chinese firm over M1 billion tender

DCEO probes Chinese firm over M1 billion tender

MASERU- THE Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) is investigating how a Chinese-owned company was awarded the M1 billion tender to build a road from Marakabei to Monontsa. Under the spotlight are the officials from Geo China Company and the Ministry of Public Works.

DCEO spokeswoman ’Matlhokomelo Senoko told thepost yesterday that they received a report on the alleged corruption in the road deal.
Senoko however refused to give further details. A source close to the matter told thepost that the DCEO investigators are preparing to pounce at the ministry’s top officials.

The probe comes after the opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) deputy spokesman Apesi Ratšele asked the DCEO to scrutinise the deal.
He asked the DCEO to urgently investigate the tender in order to curb the rampant corruption taking place in the ministry.

The Ministry of Public Works awarded the M900 million contract to China Geo allegedly without following procurement regulations.
Principal Secretary Mothabathe Hlalele said the road is costly “because there will be a lot of blasting as the road will go through mountains”.
He said apart from geographical issues the road “is the most expensive because it is expected to be of a first grade and a highest quality ever”.
The road will connect mountainous rural areas in Leribe and Butha-Buthe districts to the border between Lesotho and South Africa’s Free State province.

The Lesotho government is financing the road from its own resources, Hlalele said. China Geo was expected to use its funds to construct the road until July 2018 and the government will start refunding the contractor from then on, according to the agreement.

Hlalele said 40 percent of the project would be sub-contracted to the local companies “but those sub-contractors will have to meet the standards so that the work is done efficiently and effectively”. This irked local companies who felt that they were denied an opportunity to compete with China Geo and they wrote the ministry demanding explanation.

But Ratšele took the matter further. He wanted the DCEO to investigate the officials. Rats’ele also said he learnt through the Public Accounts Committee chaired by MP Selibe Mochoboroane that the tender for Marakabei-Monotša road construction was not in the budget and therefore was not in the appropriation bill that was passed by the parliament for the 2017/2018 financial year.

“The tender has however been allocated to one company, China Geo, that they decided to handpick without a tender process or bidding followed,” Ratšele said. Ratšele said other companies were denied the opportunity to compete for the job. “Of importance is the fact that this is a M925 million tender,” Ratšele added. The government was forced to cancel the deal after pressure from local construction companies and outcry from the public.

Nkheli Liphoto

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