PS off the hook

PS off the hook

MASERU

PUBLIC Works Principal Secretary Mothabathe Hlalele is off the hook after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Hlalefang Motinyane declined to prosecute him.
In a letter directed to the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) boss, Borotho Matsoso, which was seen by thepost this week, Motinyane said Hlalele had no case to answer.
Matsoso approached Motinyane seeking to prosecute Hlalele after his investigations revealed that Hlalele could have corruptly tinkered with the tender process.
The DCEO investigated allegations of corruption against Hlalele and other officials in the ministry in connection with the M140 million senate building tender which has so far failed to take off since bids were opened six years ago.

The senate building construction, which should be atop Mpilo Hill alongside the parliament building, was first won by a Chinese firm Yan Jian in 2016 but Hlalele ordered a reevaluation of the tender in 2017 after he was appointed the PS. Hlalele’s reasons were that some companies that had tendered for the same job were unfairly disqualified.

The job was given to another Chinese company, Qing Jian, which had been disqualified in 2012 together with a local company, Sigma Construction and China Shanxi Construction.
Matsoso investigated allegations of corruption in the tender process after Hlalele gave the job to Qing Jian under questionable circumstances.
The High Court had earlier found that Yan Jian was not given the job although it had won the tender as the previous principal secretary ordered that the construction project be re-tendered.
Other participants in the tender had sued Yan Jian and won the case.

When the government changed last year and Hlalele was appointed the new principal secretary, he openly defied the court order and insisted on starting the tender process afresh.
He then invited companies that had been disqualified to participate. The previously disqualified Qing Jian was awarded the tender, which attracted Matsoso’s investigation.

Now the DPP says Hlalele did no wrong, according to her letter. “It seems to me, both from our discussions and the evidence in the docket that there is no evidence that the Principal Secretary (PS) personally benefited from the act he is suspected to have committed thereby raising issues of bribery and/or related offences,” the letter reads in part.

Motinyane, in a rhetorical question, suggests that Hlalele had powers to direct the tender process to start afresh.
She justifies Hlalele’s act by saying he allowed the competition to start again when he “allowed all disqualified companies to tender along with those that qualified”.
“Put differently, in doing what he did was his intention to benefit a specified company as required by the (Prevention of Corruption and Economic Offences) Act?”

“Clearly from the evidence, in directing competition, there is no evidence that he was earmarking or preferring a specific company or his purpose was to obtain an undue advantage for a specific person,” she said. She insinuated that Hlalele’s case was different from Pontšo Lebotsa’s, a former Labour Principal Secretary who was convicted for corruption but later got the Royal pardon.
“In the final analysis the evidence collected thus far, does not fall within the requirements of the preferred charge,” she said.

“I however (am) considering a second opinion in the matter.” Motinyane said this case seemed “rather a complex matter centering around the powers of the Chief Accounting Officer in the performance of their duties, particularly as both heads of tender panels and accounting officers”.

Staff Reporter

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