Ministers quizzed over Bidvest

Ministers quizzed over Bidvest

MASERU – THE Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) is quizzing ministers who were members of the Cabinet subcommittee for the government fleet tender awarded to Bidvest.

thepost can reveal that some of the ministers have already been interviewed. This however does not mean that they are under any investigation.
The DCEO says the interviews are part of the routine process of gathering information as part of an investigation.

The DCEO has been investigating the controversial fleet management tender since last year when allegations emerged that the tender process had been tainted by corruption.
Of particular interest to the anticorruption unit are the explosive claims that then Finance Minister ’Mamphono Khaketla demanded a M4 million bribe from Lebelonyane, a company that lost the tender to Bidvest.

Khaketla, who was part of the subcommittee that some directors of Lebelonyane has accused of usurping the tender panel’s role in the process, has denied the bribery allegations and is suing those who made the claims. In a case in the High Court Khaketla is claiming M6 million in damages from former Democratic Congress (DC) youth leader, Thuso Litjobo, for alleging that she asked for a bribe.  DCEO spokesperson ’Matlhokomelo Senoko said it is important for the interviews not to be confused with interrogations.

“This (the interviews) does not mean that they are suspected of any wrongdoing, we are just trying to understand what happened”. Senoko said the DCEO is merely looking for information as part of the investigation. “This also does not mean that we will call all of them. There are certain ministers whom the DCEO feels have the needed information and it is logical that they will be asked to provide it,” Senoko said.

She however refused to reveal the names of those ministers interviewed so far “citing investigation rules”.  Small Businesses Development Minister Selibe Mochoboroane, who was a member of the sub-committee, told thepost that he is yet to be called by the DCEO for an interview. He however said he is expecting that the anticorruption unit will call him soon because “some members of the sub-committee have been interviewed”.

“I can only say I am expecting the DCEO to call me for an interview on what I know in regard to that tender, nothing more,” Mochoboroane said. “Some members of the cabinet subcommittee have already been called.”  He also denied social media speculation this week that the DCEO was going to interrogate him about the tender.

“I have never been called for interrogation by the DCEO and I am not expecting to be interrogated like I had a hand in any wrongdoing during that tender,” Mochoboroane said.
“I am not expecting any kind of interrogation for any wrongdoing anywhere I have worked in government”.  Other members of the subcommittee were Education Minister Tšoeu Mokeretla, Tsukutlane Au (Public Service), Dr Pontšo Sekatle (Local Government) and Home Affairs Minister Lekhetho Rakuoane.

Some of Lebolonyane’s directors have maintained that is was leading the race for the lucrative contract until it refused to offer a bribe to Khaketla. There are however others who believe that the initial tender results had been manipulated to favour Lebelonyane and the company was about to be awarded the contract when the cabinet-subcommittee raised concerns about the scoring.

It is perhaps only the DCEO investigation that will establish the truth of what really happened. The tender is seen as one of the reasons why the DC split after then deputy leader Monyane Moleleki made it his rallying point against alleged corruption in the government.
Together with the then members of the national executive committee of the party, Moleleki would try to pull the DC out of the coalition government.

He was later suspended together with the NEC members, some of whom have since joined his Alliance of Democrats. The youth had also reported her to the DCEO which has since started investigating the case. This tender corruption claim by the DC youth has resulted in the party split with its deputy Monyane Moleleki riding on the youth’s vibe and started accusing his colleagues with corruption.

Moleleki has defected from the DC, together with the entire youth league leadership and women’s league, to form the Alliance of Democrats (AD).
Moleleki and the youth have been calling for the Bidvest tender contract to be terminated saying the tender process was irregular. But Khaketla has always maintained that due process was followed. The youth who reported Khaketla to the DCEO also accused her of ordering the police to arrest, torture and kill them, a claim she and the Maseru urban police commander Motlatsi Mapola have rubbished as unfounded.

Staff Reporter

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