DCEO investigates M40m fertilizer deal

DCEO investigates M40m fertilizer deal

Staff Reporter

MASERU

THE Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) has started investigation into how Hippo Transport got M40 million tender to supply fertilizer to Ministry of Agriculture.

The DCEO spokesperson ’Matlhokomelo Senoko has confirmed the investigation yesterday but said she would not tell the details in harmony with the anti-corruption policy.

thepost understands that the people who will be quizzed include Makalo Theko who was the ministry’s chief accounting officer when the tender was awarded to Hippo Transport in August last year.

Theko has since been transferred to the Ministry of Local Government.

It is also understood that the ministry’s then Senior Procurement Officer Nyatso Maleke as well as management of Hippo Transport will be asked questions.

Maleke, who is currently the Senior Procurement Officer for the Ministry of Police, is also embroiled in a controversial awarding of the M7 million tender to supply police uniform.

The DCEO is also investigating this case and it is expected that she will be one of the people to be quizzed.

The Ministry of Agriculture is accused of having tinkered with the tender process to award the contract to Hippo Transport.

As for Theko, he is believed to have handpicked Hippo Transport for the contract, an allegation he vehemently denied.

The DCEO is seeking to find out how Hippo Transport was awarded the tender that had initially been won by Alfa Agro Chem.

In July last year, the ministry invited bids for the supply of 7 500 tonnes of fertilizer for distribution to farmers at subsidised prices.

The tender was closed on August 11 at noon and bids were opened two hours later.

On August 26 Maleke wrote Alfa Agro Chem informing it that it had “been selected as the most favourable tender”.

Maleke also wrote the company telling it that within 15 days it would receive “the contract award letter and the contract document” if no bidder objected to the decision.

However, two days later Maleke wrote to all bidders telling them that the tender had been withdrawn after the ministry “encountered an error in the (tender) process”.

On September 16 Alfa Agro Chem wrote the ministry saying it was still waiting for the contract, unaware that the ministry gave the contract to Hippo Transport a day earlier.

The letter notifying Alfa Agro Chem and other bidders of the awarding of the contract to Hippo Transport had not reached Alfa Agro Chem.

In the letter it was said “the decision reached was that the most favourable tender was submitted by Hippo Transport”.

Alfa Agro Chem wrote the Procurement Unit asking “why this happened”.

When Alfa Agro Chem complained that Hippo Transport’s fertilizer was of low quality, Maleke wrote that the ministry “does not only achieve ‘value for money’ in procurement but also offer suppliers fair access to government funded work”.

She also wrote that the ministry had “detected an error (misapplication of rules) on the evaluation process”.

After the Alfa Agro Chem’s complaint all bidders were invited to a meeting on September 29 where they were told that the tender would be cancelled and replaced by selective tendering in which only companies that participated in the previous tender would be invited to bid.

On October 6 bids for the selective tender were supposed to be opened but Theko who was chairing the panel allegedly told the bidders to collect their tender envelopes and go because the ministry had decided to award the tender to Hippo Transport as had been announced earlier.

A few days later Theko applied for a waiver and gave the job to Hippo Transport.

Theko told thepost later that “what we did was a right thing and proper”.

“We will not even talk about the previous tenders because each of the tenders was separate from others. This company won the tender in a separate tender,” Theko said.

“I had to waiver for it because the time to supply fertilizers is running out. This is urgent or else it is Basotho farmers who will suffer if we do not act quickly,” he said.

The DCEO is also investigating a tender to supply police uniform in which Maleke is involved.

This is a case in which the Ministry of Police awarded a contract to supply police uniform to a company one of the bidders, Smally Trading, alleged that it had not been properly registered.

Smally Trading’s director, Leonia Mosothoane, challenged the qualification of Cubana Shells after the ministry announced that it had cancelled the tender but later it was discovered that it had been awarded to Cubana Shells through selective tendering.

Smally Trading challenged the decision in the Commercial Court where Justice Lisebo Chaka-Makhooane ruled that the company approached the court without first exhausting the local remedies.

The ministry immediately held a press conference to announce the victory and Maleke told the press conference that “It’s not true that the companies are not registered”.

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