Fight over M100m tender

Fight over M100m tender

MASERU – A legal battle is looming over the government’s latest fleet management tender.
The tender, worth a staggering M100 million over five years, was supposed to be finalized this week but is now the subject of legal fight after one of the losing bidders filed an urgent High Court application to block the contract.
The tender was won by to a joint venture of Fleet Service Lesotho and Silverstone Fleet Solutions, both Lesotho registered companies.
The joint venture was about to start contract negotiations with the Ministry of Finance after the mandatory “cooling off period” when Fleeters Holdings, one of the losing bidders, alleged that tender regulations had been violated.

Fleeters Holdings has since sued to block the government from awarding the contract to the joint venture.It is also asking court to declare that it is the rightful winner of the tender although it scored 70 percent against the joint venture’s 82 percent.
The High Court is expected to start hearing the case today.
In its court papers the joint venture dismisses Fleeters Holdings’ allegations as frivolous and misdirected.

But even before getting to the contents of the court case itself, there is something peculiar about the shareholders of the companies involved.
Registered in August last year, Fleeters Holdings is owned by nine Basotho. Its biggest shareholder is Khotso Matabane, an All Basotho Convention (ABC) member who is also Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro’s driver.

Other shareholders known to be linked to the ABC are Thato Ponya, Bokang Tsoanamatsie, Malefetsane Phalane and Katiso Phasumane. The political connections of shareholders, Thabiso Tsasane, Moeketsane Noosi, Mothibeli Linakane and Mokhantsi Tsoamotse could not be ascertained.
Matabane owns 400 shares while the other eight own 200 shares each.
According to company records Fleet Service Lesotho is wholly owned by Super Group Africa, a company listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Several Basotho are however listed as former directors of the company. They are Letsatsi Mabona, Thabo Moteletsane, Lipalesa Ramphi and Lebohang Maketa.

Mabona’s direct link to the venture is that he owns 50 percent of Silverstone Fleet Solutions which was registered in 2008. Mabona has previously been linked to the Alliance of Democrats (AD) but has since declared that he has retired from politics.
His partner in Silverstone Fleet Solutions is Teboho Tlokotsi who owns the other half of the shares.

Mabona is also the director of Lebelonyane Fleet Solutions, the company famous for challenging the initial fleet tender in 2016.
The company is also known for getting Minister of Finance ‘Mamphono Khaketla, and her alleged boyfriend, in hot water after alleging that they asked for a M4million bribe to award the tender.
The two are facing corruption charges while Lebelonyane Fleet Solutions’ case against the government is still in the courts. Mabona however refused to comment on the latest battle.

According to the Ministry of Finance’s tender notice the main objective of the tender was to hire a Lesotho registered fleet management company “to manage both Government fleet and leased fleet (to be procured from Basotho)”. The company was supposed to implement government policy on the procurement transport services from Basotho.
The second objective was to assist the government to implement a policy of setting up support services like dealerships, supply of spare parts and panel beating to empower locals.
The third goal was to reduce the government’s fleet costs and improve efficiency.

In its court papers Fleeters Holdings says on March 28 the Ministry of Finance notified them thorough a letter that the tender had been awarded to Fleet Service Lesotho/ Silverstone Fleet Solutions joint venture.
It says the news came as a shock because “Fleet Africa/Silverstone” “did not take part in the bidding process” but was being announced as the winner.
Fleeters Holdings alleges that “Fleet Africa’s” documents show that it was “struck off” the company register and therefore had no right to participate in the tender.
It alleges that the company does not have a trader’s licence and tax clearance.

It further alleges that “Silverstone” never participated in the tender.
Fleeters Holdings also says the tender documents were clear that the government was looking for a Lesotho registered company and not a partnership or joint venture.
“It is therefore wrong to award it (the joint venture) the tender because the tender documents clearly spelled out the requirements, and a partnership or joint venture was not one of them,” the company says in an affidavit submitted by Tsoanamastie.

Tsoanamastie insists that there is no indication that the joint venture was registered.
He says “Fleet Africa/Silverstone” does not meet the basic requirements for the tender “because it is not a Lesotho registered company”.
“I aver that awarding such a big tender to a company which does not meet the requirements is irrational as it clearly shows that the discretion was wanton exercised in favour of an ineligible or non-qualifying company.”

The joint venture however says all these allegations are false.
In a letter the joint venture’s lawyers tell Fleeters Holdings directors that their case is weak because it is based on incorrect fact “which resulted in lack of diligence in formulating the cause of action”
It insists that Fleet Service Lesotho is legally registered in Lesotho and its joint venture with Silverstone was properly registered.
It says Fleeters Holdings should verify the registration record to avoid “abusing court process and unwarranted clowning”.

An independent verification by thepost shows that both Fleet Service Lesotho and Silverstone Fleet Solutions are legally registered.
It however appears that Fleeters Holdings is referring to Fleet Africa, a company “struck off” but not remotely linked to the joint venture.

It also appears that Fleeters Holdings is taking issue with Silverstone Trading and not Silverstone Fleet Solutions. Silverstone Trading was registered in 2010 and its activities are recorded as “unknown”. The joint venture told Fleeters Holdings that it had hired a senior advocate from South Africa to defend the case. It said in addition to a strong legal team it was going to ask Fleeters Holdings to file security of costs of M1.5 million.
In court papers the joint venture argues that Fleeters Holdings does not have the right to sue and has not exhausted local remedies before approaching the court.

Staff Reporter

 

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