’Maseribane in ‘trouble’

’Maseribane in ‘trouble’

MASERU – CHIEF Thesele ’Maseribane could have facilitated a multi-million maloti tender deal for a South African company to refurbish football grounds without going through an open tender, a Parliamentary committee heard this week. ’Maseribane, who is the leader of the Basotho National Party (BNP), is still smarting following a damaging story over his relationship with a British tycoon, Aaron Banks.

On Monday, ’Maseribane faced yet another bombshell after a senior government official revealed he had used his position as minister to award a multi-million tender to a South African company.
The Deputy Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Sports, ’Mabataung Khalane, told parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that ’Maseribane could have facilitated the awarding of the contract to the company only known as DISA when he was minister in 2013.

The revelation came after three hours of intense questioning by the PAC with Khalane refusing to disclose who had authorised the deal.
She finally relented and implicated ’Maseribane. “I don’t know if it is the right thing to say. It was the Honourable Minister,” she said, when pressured to disclose who had facilitated the awarding to the contract to DISA.

The PAC chairman, Selibe Mochoboroane, said he will summon ’Maseribane to come and explain his side of the story.
The tender was awarded to DISA in 2013 when Chief ‘Maseribane was the Minister of Sports. The company was supposed to refurbish four stadiums — Bambatha Tšita Sports Arena, Pitso Ground, Lioli Football Ground in Teya-Teyaneng and Leshoboro Stadium in Mafeteng.
The PAC this week heard that the name of the owner of DISA was not known to the staff but only to Chief ’Maseribane.

During the proceedings, the DISA owner was only referred to as “Setsibi”.
Ministry of Sports officials who appeared before the PAC said it is Chief ’Maseribane who gave the job to the “white man” whose name was never disclosed.
Khalane said the “white man” was not known by nobody else except the minister.
“Setsibi” was given the tender without going through the procedures, a fact that riled the PAC.

The PAC also wanted to know whether the man was paid and if he was able to complete the entire task given to him.
Khalane said she was not sure but was informed that the “white man” did not complete the work that was assigned to him.
“He only destroyed those grounds and never maintained them because he said the money that was paid to him was less than he had asked for,” she added.
“But I do not have much information about that white man, the person who has all the information is the then minister.”

She said she believed the South African company had charged an amount that was close to M6 million.
Khalane told the PAC that she only knew that “Setsibi” was given a job and never finished it because he was not happy about the payment he was given.
Mochoboroane said they will summon Chief ’Maseribane for an explanation.

He said they wanted to understand why the “white man” was paid before he could finish the job.
The mentioning of Chief ’Maseribane’s name came after Khalane told the PAC that a very junior official, Sephokoana Moholoholo, could give a clearer explanation of what happened because she was the one who signed the documents with the minister.

Moholoholo was an administrative secretary for the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the COSAFA Games that were held in Lesotho in that year.
Khalane said she refused to sign the contract because procurement regulations had not been followed.
It was then that Moholoholo signed the contract together with the minister.

The procurement director, ’Mabongani Sekhonyana, told the PAC that she knew nothing about the contract.
“I never procured any service for the maintenance of the grounds,” Sekhonyana said.
Khalane, who said at the time she was the director of infrastructure in the ministry, said Moholoholo came in her office with the South African businessman and introduced him to her as an expert on playgrounds maintenance.

“I saw the white man for the first time when she introduced him to me and I never had any dealings with him thereafter,” she said.
Moholoholo told the PAC that she too did not know the white man, she only interacted with him when she took him to Khalane’s office and when she signed the contract.
“I was in the principal secretary’s office discussing the COSAFA business and when we were about to finish there were these white men who entered,” she said.

“The principal secretary asked if he could help him and he told him that he was looking for ’Mѐ Khalane. He even mispronounced it saying Calani,” she said.
“Since I was already on my way out, Ntate PS asked me to take them to her office.”
Moholoholo said she signed the contract because she was told that it had to be signed by the LOC and it had to be by someone working for the ministry, and she was the only one in the LOC who was a government employee.

She said other than that, she knew nothing about the company and the white man.
She also denied that she called him an expert.
“I never introduced him to ’Mѐ Khalane because I did not know him.”
Chief ’Maseribane’s phone went unanswered last night.

Thooe Ramolibeli

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