DCEO probes book tender

DCEO probes book tender

MASERU – THE Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) is investigating suspected corruption in the awarding of a lucrative tender to supply books to government-owned primary schools. The tender, reportedly worth millions of maloti, was won by Oxford Publishers.
The tender was for the supply of books for Grade 7.

Other companies that submitted bids were Morija Sesuto Book Depot, Mazenod Book Centre, MacMillan and Pearson.
DCEO spokeswoman ’Matlhokomelo Senoko confirmed the investigation but could not give further details due to confidentiality rules.
Senoko however said Mazenod Book Centre and Morija Sesuto Book Depot, both local companies, reported the matter to the DCEO after the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) awarded the tender to Oxford Publishers.

The two companies said they suspected that the tender was corruptly awarded.
A source close to the matter said trouble started when the companies felt the NCDC was not giving clear answers as to how Oxford won the tender.
“One can safely say there was no answer given and the bidders are still at a loss,” the source said.

“The companies complain that there is no transparency. They accuse the evaluation team of being too economic with information.”
“The criteria followed in the selection of Oxford are not clear to everybody except the evaluation team and the NCDC.”
Mazenod Book Centre manager, ’Mamohapi Ramaboli, said “the three foreign companies were evaluated in Thaba-Tseka while Mazenod and Morija were not,” Ramaboli said.
“Another evaluation process followed which brought confusion and suspicion because Oxford Publishers was awarded the tender,” she said.
He said they waited for two weeks to be informed about the winning bidder but were surprised when they were told to collect letters from the Ministry of Education.
The letter said the tender was won by Oxford Publishers to supply books for six subjects including Sesotho and Science.

“We tendered for Sesotho, Social Science subjects and Arts but one subject was evaluated and until this day we have not received the remarks for the tender process,” Ramaboli states.
The Warehouse Manager of Morija Book Depot, Kanono Mokati, said “the Ministry of Education did not follow the correct procedure in awarding the tender”.
“We wrote a letter to the Ministry of Education and Training urging for the tender process to start afresh or rather it should inform us as to how the tender was awarded,” Mokati said.
Morija tendered for English, Sesotho and Science books.

The Chief Education Officer of Curriculum and Assessment, ’Mabakubung Seutloali, said books undergo a rigorous evaluation before a publisher wins a contract.
“Stages differ and for a company to win it is expected to fully qualify in those stages,” Seutloali said.
“Primary teachers apply to form an evaluation team including one member of the Procurement Unit, Finance and one from NCDC.”
Seutloali maintained that books are supposed to be based on a syllabus and not necessarily the interest of the publisher.

“If the books do not have proper content they cannot qualify, the publisher does not get the job to supply books,” she said.
“For instance, if some publishers score the same marks but their selling prices differ the evaluators will opt for the cheaper company with good content or vice versa.”
“A systematic approach is used, that is, whether the publisher adhered to the syllabus and whether the content is integrated,” Seutloali said.
She further said if the publishers are not satisfied with the proceedings of the tender process, there are procedures to be followed.

Education Minister Mokhele Moletsane said he only read in the social media about the tender and “I had no idea that there was such a tender before”.
“I am not the CEO, my work is to oversee execution of government policies in my ministry,” Moletsane said.

Tokase Mphutlane

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