Ministry quizzed over stinky deal

Ministry quizzed over stinky deal

MASERU – FAILURE to follow procurement regulations has stalled construction of M2.4 billion sporting facilities meant for use during the forthcoming 2020 African Union Region Five Youth Games.
This emerged during a hearing of parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Tuesday where it was alleged that “instructions from above” had resulted in failure to follow laid down regulations.

The Acting Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, ’Mamakopoi Letsie, said the ministry does not have a report showing how the contractors and companies were chosen.
Members of the parliamentary committee heard how political interference has blighted the procurement process.

The Director of Procurement in the Ministry of Finance, Likotsi Leseli, told the committee that the entire procurement process regarding the forthcoming games had gone wrong.
He said his office did not even receive an evaluation report.
“Government officials interfere with our job, they want to be involved in operations,” he said, adding that decisions are made from above.
Lesotho is expected to host the tournament in December next year but is yet to raise funds for the sporting jamboree. This is despite that Chief Thesele ’Maseribane presided over a groundbreaking ceremony of the facilities’ construction on behalf of the prime minister last Friday.

Residences for 4 000 athletes and officials that will be coming to Lesotho from African countries will also have to be built before the games start.
The Sports Ministry’s Deputy Principal Secretary, ’Mabataung Khalane, said the need to build residences was suggested by her ministry.
She said the government was aware of its responsibilities regarding the games 2017.

Defending her ministry, Khalane informed the committee that there was a decision to identify individuals or companies with interest to fund the games.
Because of time constraints, the ministry started looking for interested parties and an open tender was issued.
She said some proposals were approved, resulting in the listing of some companies.

Khalane said the ministry asked the Ministry of Finance’s Director of Debts to help source for funding.
“The Finance Minister then asked the Cabinet to approve the project,” she said.
Khalane said they agreed to a M2.4 billion budget.
Companies that won then tender were NEPCOO II, which will build accommodation facilities at the National University of Lesotho (NUL), MFT which will build sporting facilities at Lepereng and Design Edge, which is responsible for the construction of a stadium at Lepereng.

The companies will be paid in five years, and will enjoy a three percent interest per annum.
Khalane told the committee that the Finance Ministry produced a legal opinion to make the organisers aware of the risks of high debt and the need for a feasibility study.
She said they were “aware of the risks but not to the extent that the games should be stopped”.

“We received approval to proceed,” Khalane said.
She said the fact that groundbreaking ceremony was not meant to embarrass or humiliate the prime minister.
“We had a guarantee that the funds will be available so the sod turning was done,” she said.

She said a contract to kick start construction has already been signed.
She said when the project started the budget was projected at more than M4 billion but was reduced on the basis of prioritisation Khalane said the project will be funded through a direct loan and not through a Private Public Partnership.

However, the Director of Public Debt and Aid Management at the Ministry of Finance, Khotso Moleleki, said the finance ministry made it clear that the procurement and sourcing procedure was being undermined.
He said they also made it clear that Setsoto Stadium should be utilised for the games rather than build costly new facilities but the suggestion was shot down.

He said Lesotho could not afford to borrow M2 billion for the games because it would result in the country being regarded as a high debtor and jeorpadise chances of borrowing for emergency situations.
But the Procurement Manager at the Ministry of Sports, ’Mabongani Sekhonyana, expressed surprise at the claims of discrepancies in the procurement process by the Finance Ministry.
Sekhonyana said the Finance Ministry had not formally provided them with a written opinion on the matter, especially the risk of high debt.
Chairperson of the parliamentary committee Selibe Mochoboroane however produced a document showing that the Finance Ministry had indeed warned the sports ministry through a detailed legal opinion.
Mochoboroane said it appeared as if the sports ministry was under pressure to approve the project.

He said he will summon Finance Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro and Sports Minister Dr Mahali Phamotse to clarify the matter further.
He applauded officers from the Ministry of Finance for documenting the history of its interactions with officials from the sports ministry regarding the project.
“People are going to account for things like this,” he said.

Nkheli Liphoto

 

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