Students threaten to block graduation

Students threaten to block graduation

MASERU – NATIONAL University of Lesotho (NUL) students have threatened to block the graduation ceremony in September if the registrar does not buy academic wear from Basotho suppliers. The students say the registrar, Liteboho Maqalika-Lerotholi, should recuse herself from procurement processes because she is conflicted.

The students also say they suspect the procurement procedures for the academic regalia has been administered corruptly.
The students said they want the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) to investigate the university’s management over the matter.

The Student Representative Committee (SRC) secretary general, Thato Ponya, told thepost yesterday that “we have smelled some rot” in a way the management is conducting the academic regalia procurement. Ponya however declined to go into the details of what they have unearthed.
“All I can say is that someone is benefiting unfairly in the whole process,” Ponya said.

“We are worried that local Basotho suppliers are not being considered for this lucrative job but a certain Chinese whom the management is interested in is the one benefiting,” he said. “We have discovered why this Chinese national is the one being given the job to supply the academic regalia and Basotho are sidelined,” he said.

Ponya said all the SRC suggestions on the procurement of the academic wear were elbowed aside on the grounds that the locals do not have the capacity to supply the materials. “No, this is not true. Our Basotho have come together to form a joint venture and they would be helped by the LNDC so that they could have the capacity,” he said.

“Someone who is not supposed to have a hand in the procurement is playing games with us,” he said.
The SRC has clashed with the university registrar, Liteboho Maqalika-Lerotholi, over how she procures the graduation gowns, mortar boards and hoods.

In May the SRC wrote the university management complaining about the matter. They said the university did not respond to their letter.
Their complaints, spelled out in the letters, were that the way the academic dress was procured prevented the students from benefitting from bulk buying.

They said that would give them a discount but the university proposal will see the students buying as individuals which will make it too costly for them.

However, their main concern in the letters was that the buying of the academic dress from “a Chinese corporation denies Basotho small-scale suppliers an opportunity to grow”. “We advised the management that the SRC has entered into a memorandum of understanding with a local manufacturers’ consortium” to provide the dress.

The SRC said the MOU with the local consortium was structured in a way that would engage the students and introduce them to the world of business.
The purpose was to make them engaged in business so that they can employ themselves instead of waiting to be hired by the government after graduating from university.

The letter says the current procurement system of the university denies “Basotho enterprises the opportunity for growth, by allowing Chinese companies to compete unfairly with local small-scale manufacturers”. They say it “creates a platform that falls short of open and transparent purchasing”.

“It is open to potential abuse, to the detriment of deserving Basotho enterprises,” the letter reads.
The system, the SRC complains, “has failed to engender the empowerment and growth of local manufacturers”.
“To address these shortcomings, the SRC advised management of its intention to implement an SRC-led Local Manufacturing and Investment Programme,” the letter reads.

They say the MOU they signed would “create a platform for students to partake in commercial activity, in support of the SRC-initiated Free Enterprise Programme which was launched a few years ago to encourage students to create and sustain small business enterprises”.
The university registrar could not be reached for comment last night.

Staff Reporter

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