Fight over M7m tender

Fight over M7m tender

Staff Reporter

MASERU

POLICE on Tuesday morning raided the home of a Maseru businesswoman, a day after she applied for a High Court order to block the police from awarding a multimillion maloti uniform contract.

Leonia Mosothoane woke up on Tuesday to find her home in Lithabaneng surrounded by armed police officers. Her security guard told her the police had arrived at the house around 3am.

The previous day her company Smally Trading Company (Pty) Ltd had sued to block the police from awarding two uniform tenders worth M7 million to two companies Mosothoane claims are not qualified.

The contracts are for police shirts, jerseys, suits, boots, badges and caps. They were awarded to Cubana Shells Holdings and Naledi Outdoor Advertising, companies also cited in Smally Trading’s lawsuit.

In court papers Mosothoane says Cubana Shells Holdings is not legally registered and Naledi Outdoor Advertising does not have the experience in textile as required by the police’s tender documents.

The companies were awarded the contracts through selective tender on March 18 after the police abruptly cancelled the initial open tender.

Mosothoane told thepostthe policemen who came to her house said they had received a tipoff that she had uniforms and guns. She claimed the police had threatened to shoot her security guard if he refused to open the gate.

The police, she said, then rummaged through her house and took uniforms from her bedroom.

Smally Trading won the previous tender to supply police uniform in 2008.

Mosothoane said from the house the police went to a shipment container in the yard. “When my husband said he did not have the keys to the container the police used a cutting torch to open it,” Mosothoane said.

thepost witnessed the police opening the container which had building materials.

Before the search Mosothoane had told the police she could not allow them into the house unless they produce the warrant.

“But one senior officer said because of his rank he did not need a search warrant.”

As an argument ensued Mosothoane told the officers she needed someone to be present during the search because she was not sure of their intentions. She called her brother, a former soldier.

Mosothoane said she believed the raid was an intimidation tactic to stop her from fighting the police over the tender she alleged was awarded “unlawfully and corruptly”.  “I am not going to back down on this one. On this one I will fight,” she said.

“I am tired of people playing tricks with tenders. It is not right that tenders are awarded to politically connected companies that are not qualified.”

“I think this is their way of telling me to shut up”.

Police spokesperson Superintendent Clifford Molefe confirmed the raid but said it had nothing to do with the court case. “We went to her home to raid because we had received a tip off that there were weapons at her home. It was also alleged that she had kept police uniform in her house unlawfully,” Molefe said.

“Yes, we received the court order but a long time after we started our operation at her house. We started the raid at around 5 a.m. and we were served with the court order towards 9 o’clock in the morning.”

“Put in mind that the issue of our investigating a crime at the lady’s house and the case involving the police uniform tender are two separate things. They are not related at all.”

No law bars the police from investigating a criminal case against anybody who has a civil case against them, Molefe said.

In papers filed on Monday Mosothoane wanted a High Court order interdicting the police and the Ministry of Police and Public Safety from releasing monies to Cubana Shells Holdings and Naledi Outdoor Advertising.

She claims Cubana Shells Holdings is owned by one Lekhotla Mats’aba whom she alleges has political links with one of the ruling parties.

She wants the awarding of the tender declared null and void “for non-compliance with the Public Procurement Act”.

She also wants the police to reinstate the tender to the submission stage and the Registrar of Companies to issue a report explaining the status of Cubana Shells Holdings. In October 2015 the Ministry of Police invited tenders for the police uniforms.

The mandatory requirement and evaluation criterion was that “suppliers must submit performance appraisal from the previous supply not preceding two (2) years.”

It said previous performance with other government ministry will carry 60 percent of the score.

Mosothoane says on November 13, the due date for the submission, an official by the name of Seamatha informed the bidders that they should not submit their tender documents because there were some mistakes in the specifications.

She claims in December she met a lady who was also bidding for the same contracts who told her that that the uniform tender was no longer preceding.

A while later she met Seamatha who told her that the allegation that the tender had been cancelled were false.

In January Mosothoane saw a newspaper advert announcing the cancellation of the tender. On January 27 she wrote to the procurement manager of the Ministry of Police asking why the tender had been cancelled.

The manager responded on February 5, telling her the tender had been cancelled for security reasons. Mosothoane responded with another letter on February 19 further querying the security reasons the manager had stated.

She says on April 7 she met Deputy Principal Secretary Senti who is the also Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police.

Also in the meeting were Research Officer Shata Mothae and Senior Procurement Officer Nyatso Maleke, Mosothoane says.

Senti told her that the contracts had been awarded through selective tender, all procedures had been followed and the contracts have been signed.

“I should say, he (Senti) never gave me reasons for the withdrawal of the said Tender as he kept saying he will not for security reasons.”

She says she told Senti of a rumour that the tender was going to be awarded to some people “who are politically affiliated to one of the ruling parties”.

She alleges Senti said she should withdraw the statement because it was a serious allegation. Mosothoane agreed to withdraw the statement but said it must be reflected in the meeting’s minutes.

She says after the meeting shedid her own investigations to find out who had been given the contracts. She discovered that a M3 342 302 contract for boots and badges had been awarded Cubana Shells.

She claims that at the Ministry of Trade she discovered that Mats’aba had tried to register Cubana Shells as a Sole Trader on March 21, some four days after the contract had been awarded.

She says Cubana was “not fully registered and is still pending up to now”.

Mosothoane claims after failing to register Cubana Shells as a Sole Trader Mats’aba tried to register Cubana Shells Holdings on April 5 but did not complete the process.

“Further investigations revealed that indeed the said Respondents (Cubana Shells and Mats’aba) had strong affiliations with one of the ruling parties”.

This, she alleges, means that the tender was awarded to an unregistered entity (and/or to a person who had not provided financial or bank statement to ascertain his suitability for conducting such a big job for the government of Lesotho”.

“Most importantly I have learnt that the said purported company and or people have not furnished any samples for what they are going to supply the Ministry.”

She says she discovered that Naleli Outdoor Advertising, registered in 2013, had been awarded a M3 657 450 contract to supply police suits.

Her investigation, she says, revealed that the company had nothing to do with protective clothing and textiles. Instead she found out that a day before getting the contract Naleli Outdoor Advertising had amended its main objectives to including textile clothing and footwear.

“In the same vein the police uniform tender worth huge sums of money was awarded to a company and/or person who has never had any ‘performance with other ministries’ especially in line of the supply of textiles, let alone the supply of protective clothing”.

Naleli Outdoor Advertising had neither the performance appraisal nor the samples, Mosothoane says.

Mosothoane implores the court to hear the case urgently because she says she has learnt that the Ministry of Police is “moving swiftly in order” conclude the transaction.

She says she want the court to stop “this illicit corruption and show that this country (is) under the Rule of Law”.

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