Sports facilities are not a priority

Sports facilities are not a priority

This week I want us to focus on the construction of sporting facilities for the 2020 Africa Union Sports Council (AUSC) Maseru Region 5 Youth Games. We are told the games could gobble about M2.4 billion.
It is hard to believe that Lesotho is going to spend well over M2.4 billion on the construction of some sports facilities at a time when 500 000 Basotho are reportedly food insecure and many of them are going hungry.

I am embarrassed that we seem not to have our priorities right as a nation.
But because of the coalition government’s hard and impenitent heart we will all suffer. I am not writing this article to attempt to convince the government to change their minds because I know corruption has hardened their hearts.

They stopped believing in the good of the country a long time ago. My aim is to continue educating and empowering Basotho.
Robert Kiyosaki in his book Rich Dad, Poor Dad talks about the factor that ultimately decides one’s future much more than school grades. Kiyosaki described what the government is doing with M2.4 billion as “guts,” “chutzpah,” “balls,” “audacity,” “bravado,” “cunning,” “daring” and “tenacity.” I wish the government had the same guts when it comes to addressing our pressing problems such as access to clean drinking water, access to electricity, sustainable jobs and others.

On October 30, 2019 the Government of Lesotho released a statement informing Basotho that it had through the Ministry of Finance issued loan guarantees to Property 2000. These loan guarantees were approved by the cabinet.

Property 2000 is supposed to raise finance of M2.450 billion distributed to three companies. The developers are NEPCO TWO (Pty) Ltd engaged to construct accommodation facilities at NUL and playgrounds at the cost of M760 million; Design Edge (Pty) Ltd engaged to construct a stadium at Lepereng at the cost of M898 million, and MFT Lesotho (Pty) Ltd engaged to construct an indoor training facility at the cost of M785 million.

The infrastructure development of the sports facilities is not a priority for this country. Setting priorities is not just about addressing past failures. It is also about protecting past achievements. In the past 30 years the government prioritised education, health, defending the nation, protecting workers, building roads, enhancing transportation, promoting economic growth, and supporting the poor.
These priorities have hardly changed in the past six years when we have had two different administrations.

But we are shocked that the government is now changing the trajectory. Sports facilities seem to be number one priority of the coalition government. We failed to do a feasibility study on this project to determine the return on investment (ROI). So we are embarking on a project we are not sure of its viability and I guess we shall never know because we denied ourselves as a nation to do a proper feasibility study.
The second issue is that the tendering process was not followed. It is not enough to have tendered through an expression of interest (EOI) given the magnitude of the project. The EOI is irregular for big projects like this that must be accessed properly.

I do not understand why the procurement regulations for these transactions were not followed. The Minister of Sports argues that they no longer have the time to do things properly. An important question need to be asked: Why did the Ministry of Sports wait for so long to act on this project yet they knew in 2013 that we committed to host the 2020 Africa Union Sports Council (AUSC)?
The late Minister Mafora signed an MOU in 2017 but here we are in 2019 left with 12 months before they games start, but construction of these facilities has not commenced. The Ministry of Sports does not have the technical know-how when it comes to the construction of big projects.

The Ministry of Works should have been involved earlier to come up with a technically sound project and cost estimations. It is wrong to have allowed the developer to come up with cost estimates.
This exercise could put the government of Lesotho in a vulnerable position through over-costing. Let us remember that this is not a grant, it is a loan that shall be paid back in 30 years.
At least the government of Lesotho should have done a comprehensive appraisal of the project to evaluate it is viability. That is called due diligence.

I am informed that the developers are all eight months behind commencement of the works in terms of the timelines they had provided in their response to the EOI. How will they recover the eight months? With the remaining months be enough to give us proper facilities? Are we not risking the delivery of sub-standard and unsafe facilities?
Before I conclude please allow me to speak to the issue of who will be financing the project. I am shocked that the government of Lesotho is targeting a predatory loan shark called Property 2000. Property 2000 has never raised finance for the South African government, but the whole cabinet has resolved to outsource to an unknown company.

Lastly, the constitution of Lesotho section 112 (1) says: The Minister for the time being responsible for finance shall cause to be prepared and laid before both Houses of Parliament in each financial year estimates of the revenues and expenditure of Lesotho for the next following financial year.
M2.4 billion has never been part of 2019/2020 budget estimates yet the government is starting the construction of these sports facilities in 2019/2020 financial year.
Again in the Constitution of Lesotho, section 112 (3)(a) and (b) states steps that should be followed if government wishes to have additional expenditure: If in respect of any financial year it is found– a. that the amount appropriated by the Appropriation Act to any purpose is insufficient or that a need has arisen for expenditure for a purpose to which no amount has been appropriated by that Act; or
b. that any moneys have been expended for any purpose in excess of the amount appropriated to that purpose by the Appropriation Act or for a purpose to which no amount has been appropriated by that Act, a supplementary estimate or, as the case may be, a statement of excess showing the sums required or spent shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament and, when the supplementary estimate or statement of excess has been approved by the National Assembly, a supplementary Appropriation bill shall be introduced in the Assembly, providing for the issue of such sums from the Consolidated Fund and appropriating them to the purposes specified therein.

It is strange that the government is spending M2.4 billion without a supplementary Appropriation Bill being introduced in the National Assembly.
Much as one can admire the effort to address difficult problem of poor sports facilities, the government should pursue priorities that have at least some chance of success, which in turn implies at least some history of impact.

As a nation we are unable to provide clean drinking water, electricity, food for poor people, quality education, health care for the poor and employment.
Let us use M2.4 billion on building a dam that shall give us water, produce electricity for local and international consumption. The government is currently carrying out a feasibility study on Makhaleng dam. Let us finance the dam with our own funds.

Setting priorities among the government’s greatest needs involves at least four decisions: which activities should be continued or stopped; which are most important; which are the government’s greatest responsibility; and which should have the highest priority?
The government’s greatest priorities should involve the nation’s most important problems. Lack of sporting facilities is not our most important problem at the present moment.

By Ramahooana Matlosa

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