Nasty fight over Queen II wrecking

Nasty fight over Queen II wrecking

MASERU – A nasty fight has erupted between the Ministry Public Works and the Ministry of Health over the tender to demolish Queen Elizabeth II Hospital.

The government wants to demolish the hundred-year-old hospital and replace it with a referral hospital for the Maseru district whose construction will be funded by the Chinese government.
But the project has been delayed by what looks like a turf war between the ministries.

The Ministry of Health owns the hospital while the Ministry of Public Works is responsible for the construction and maintenance of all government buildings. Officials at the public works believe that tearing down the former referral hospital is their responsibility. Public Works Ministry is said to be unhappy that the job has been given to the army.

The Health Ministry spokesman, Tumisang Mokoai, told thepost that even after the government decided to use the army to demolish the hospital top officials at the Ministry of Public Works are still adamant that “it will never happen”.

For the past three years, the two ministries have been tussling over the tender to demolish the hospital. The Ministry of Public Works was saying the cost of the demolition would be over M30 million while the Health Ministry argued that it was too much.

The Health Ministry had budgeted only M16 million.
After mediation by Minister Leshoboro Mohlajoa of the Office of the Prime Minister, it was decided that the job be given to the army.

Mokoai told thepost last week relations soured when Ministry of Public Works insisted that the hospital could not be pulled down if the job was under-budgeted.

“Meetings have been held, there have been lots of ups and downs until now,” Mokoai said.“The plan was for the project to have been implemented at least last year around this time but it never happened because there were many disagreements between the two ministries”

“We got to that amount because of their suggestion until as time went by they ended up talking about that much money, which was M32 million.”
“At some stage it was M30 million until we insisted that we only have M16 million for the demolition.”

“We stuck to M16 million because the matter was now suspicious,” Mokoai said, adding that the Principal Secretary of Works and his minister were adamant that things should be done their way.

The ministries fought until the government ordered them to rope in the army. “Now the government has opted to get help from anybody who can help in order for this plan to be executed because there’s no money,” Mokoai said.

The army will demolish the building with the help of the Local Government Ministry because it has the equipment. The Public Works principal secretary, Mothabathe Hlalele, told thepost that they support the decision.

Hlalele however said the Health Ministry should give sound reasons for saying the project is expensive. He argued that the Ministry of Health “did not even have an estimated cost of the project”.

“Instead they just made a budget without even having a clue of how much it would cost,” Hlalele said. Halele said the “main issue is that there is no money, not that the project is expensive”.

“On Monday this week (last week) at the meeting held between the Minister of Works, PS Works and the Minister of Health with an intervention of the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s office Leshoboro Mohlajoa, we had an agreement that the LDF will be the one demolishing the building,” Hlalele said.

“Unfortunately PS Health was not able to attend.”
Hlalele said his ministry is required to advise the government on construction matters. He said the M32 million “was never an estimate but the actual cost according to the contractors.”

“Open tenders were made and some contractors were given the tenders with the approval of Public Works but the problem was with Ministry of Health,” he said, adding: “They did not sign the contracts arguing that they do not have such an amount of money.”

The Public Account Committee (PAC) entered the fray on Monday as it quizzed the ministries over the issue.  Mokoai told the committee that there is something serious being swept under the carpet by the officials from both ministries.

“There is something seriously brewing here,” he said.
Mokoai said “from the look of things, it seems there are some people whose bread has been removed from their mouths”.

The Ministry of Health’s procurement manager, Tsietsi Mosae, said the ministry just wanted the cheapest way to demolish the hospital.
Mosae said soldiers were the best options because they were not demanding millions.

“They only wanted other ministries to help them with the resources needed,” he said. Mosae however told the committee that he was reluctant to give some confidential details about the issue.  The committee later invited Mokoai and Mosae to speak in camera.

Thooe Ramolibeli & ’Mamakhooa Rapolaki

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