Uniform deal haunts police

Uniform deal haunts police

MASERU – THE Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) is stuck with uniforms worth millions of maloti that cannot be used because their sizes are too small.
Some of the uniforms can only fit 13-year-olds. The trousers are for school boys.
This is despite the fact that the police spent around M3.4 million to acquire the uniforms two years ago.
The contract was awarded through a controversial selective tender marred by allegations of corruption and violation of procurement regulations.

At that time the police vehemently denied that the suppliers were handpicked in a dubious process and did not have the skills or experience to do the job.
The uniforms were supplied by Naleli Outdoor Advertising, a company whose main business is to make and rent out billboards.
The police seemed so eager to give Naleli the contract that they allowed it to change its objective at the company registry so it could qualify for the job.

It is alleged that Cubana Shells, a company owned by Alliance of Democrat (AD) activist Lekhotla Matšaba won the M3.2 million contract to supply boots before it was registered and had the necessary documents like a trader’s licence.
There were vociferous complaints from Leonia Mosothoane whose Smally Trading Company had won the previous tender but had been elbowed out of the race when the police cancelled the tender and opted to use the selective tendering.

Mosothoane’s house was raided by the police in what she said was an attempt to silence her. The police plodded ahead with the selective tendering despite her protests.
Now the chickens seem to be coming home to roost.

The police’s storerooms are full of undersize uniforms that cannot fit even the smallest police officer. Meanwhile, police officers have to make do with sun-beaten and worn out uniforms.
And the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is shaking the police bosses for answers.
Police spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli said he could not discuss the uniforms because some senior police officers have already been suspended in connection with the issue.
Superintendent Mopeli said his hands were tied because the matter is now sub judice after some of the police officers filed a court case.

Appearing before the PAC on Monday, Mosothoane repeated the allegations that the uniforms were wrong sizes and that she was unfairly denied the contract.
She said the companies that won the contract were politically connected and had no experience in supplying police uniforms.
Her allegations have however been vehemently denied by Naleli Outdoors’ chief executive, Tumelo Moletsane.

Moletsane told thepost that it was unfortunate that the PAC had been given only one side of the story.
“It cannot be true that our whole consignment was faulty to an extent that the police decided to keep it in their store rooms and not use it,” Moletsane said.
“We were billed to supply 7 000 items, including shirts, T-shirts, caps and pairs of trousers. According to what we heard from the PAC live broadcast, 600 out of the 7000 we supplied could not fit the police.”

“Ask yourself, who gave us the police sizes. Surely it was the police themselves and we ordered according to the sizes they gave us.
“Secondly, maybe our part of the batch was erroneous but the next question is who received and checked them? Why wasn’t that raised at that time so that we could go back to where we bought them and change them?”

She said it “defies logic that someone can be silent about a faulty consignment for the whole two years”.
“We heard for the first time when we watched PAC proceedings live on TV that our company was accused of delivering uniforms that could not fit an average police (officer),” she said.
“All this time nobody said anything to us. This is unfair. Also this has tarnished our reputation as a company.”

“That lady who was addressing the PAC said the two companies were politically connected but unfortunately nobody asked her which political party Naleli Outdoor is linked with.”
Lekhotla Matšaba, director of Cubana Shells, said he only supplied the police with boots and badges. On other accusations levelled against his company at the PAC, he said his company met all the requirements.

“We were asked to furnish samples of the products we would supply and I gave them the samples of the boots and badges.”
Regarding the questionable registration of his company, which according to the Trade Ministry’s papers was registered on January 1, he said the ministry admitted that it was an error by their machines.

“My lawyer wrote them and the answer was several other companies had a similar problem because the system was faulty. I remember that it was around January 13 when I registered the company but the papers say it was on January 1, during a holiday.”
He said his company had four years’ experience when he got the tender.

After losing the tender Mosothoane took her fight all the way to the Court of Appeal where she lost.
But her hopes were raised on Monday when PAC chairman, Selibe Mochoboroane, said she could claim compensation from the police.
“Here is the Police Ministry’s principal secretary, you can see him and iron out your differences,” Mochoboroane told Mosothoane after she presented her case before the committee.
Mosothoane told thepost on Tuesday she will soon meet the principal secretary.

She said she remains convinced that “procedures were not followed when the tender was selectively awarded”.
“All I need now is to be compensated. Had the tender been awarded fairly and openly I could have won it,” she said.

Staff Reporter

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