Thabane named in tender scandal

Thabane named in tender scandal

MASERU  – THE Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government, Khothatso Tšooana, says he was ordered to award the M350 million Mpilo Boulevard tender to a Chinese businessman who is friends with Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.

Tšooana told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday that the order came from First Lady ’Maesaiah Thabane and Small Business Minister Chalane Phori at a meeting held at the State House on October 15. The tender was supposed to be awarded on October 18. Last night the Prime Minister’s spokesperson, Thabo Thakalekoala, said he was not in a position to comment on the allegations because they seem like “private issues”.

He said Thabane was present in the meeting when he was instructed to give the contract to Unik Construction, a Chinese-owned construction well known for snapping up lucrative government tenders.

He said Local Government Minister Mahala Molapo and Town Clerk Moeko Maboee were also in the meeting. Tšooana said it was Thabane who called them to the meeting.  “We found the Minister of Small Businesses Chalane Phori, ’Maesaiah and Thabane who himself was chairing the meeting,” Tšooana said.

Tšooana, who is a staunch ally of Thabane, told the committee that Phori was the first person to speak. He said Phori told them that he always listens to the prime minister, saying even at the time “he took the mace in the Parliament, he was ordered by the Prime Minister”.

He said Phori explained to them that there is a called Unik Construction.
Tšooana told the committee that Phori said the owner of that company, whom he referred to as Yang, helped Thabane and his wife when they were in exile.

“He also said Yang helped the All Basotho Convention (ABC) party to grow to where it is today,” Tšooana said. He said Phori emphasised that they should give the tender Unik Construction.

Tšooana explained that Phori was backed by the First Lady who also said they should give the tender to Unik Construction because “the owner is very good to them”.

“Even Molapo agreed with all that Phori and ’Maesaiah said.”
Tšooana said ’Maesaiah later left for another meeting.
He said after that Thabane told them of a story about a white man whom he was working with. He said Thabane said his relationship with the white man began years back.

He said Thabane narrated how during one of the meetings the white guy left a bag full of money next to Thabane and went to the toilet.
He said Thabane explained that when the white man returned he told him to take his bag and go.The white man said to Thabane, “I thought you were clever,” and he took his bag and went his way.

“Concluding the story, Thabane said to us we should go and work and do a right thing.” Tšooana said after the meeting Molapo told them to give the contract to Unik “as it was said at the meeting”.

The PAC chairperson, Selibe Mochoboroane, told the Local Government staff that after the tendering processes they should bring documents showing how it was done.

“We cannot conclude now because you are still on the tendering processes but after that, you should come to us with those documents,” Mochoboroane said. He said that would enable them to see the criteria used to award the tender.

“But after this is done, we will go deeper and people will come here and answer the committee on this issue,” Mochoboroane said.
Tšooana’s revelations come barely a week after the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) ordered the MCC to stop the tender until it completes investigations into allegations that it was being rigged.

The DCEO ordered Town Clerk Maboee to “stop the tender process with immediate effect and revoke any awarding of the tender if it has been awarded pending our advice on the ongoing investigation.”
A few weeks ago MCC Mayor, Mpho Moloi, blocked the then Minister of Local Government Litšoane Litšoane from disbanding the tender panel and suspending her.

Nine companies had tendered for the contract to upgrade the boulevard with links, flyover bridges, underpass, exclusive pedestrian bridges and signalisation. Tšooana’s claims are the clearest indication that the trouble in the MCC is connected to the tender.

Thooe Ramolibeli

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