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DCEO probes Covid tenders



MASERU-THE Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) is investigating a staggering M100 million worth of Covid-19 tenders awarded illegally.

This comes as some of the suppliers are piling pressure on the government to pay them. Some of the suppliers appear to be briefcase companies.
Others seem to have won contracts to supply products and services that are not their specialty. Among them are catering, cleaning and lodge companies.

This week Kabelo Lehora, the Cabinet’s principal secretary, said one of the owed suppliers recently threatened him with death after he refused to pay.
The DCEO investigation started four weeks ago after invoices began streaming in.

Sources at the anti-corruption unit told thepost that they will soon demand all documents relating to the contracts. They want to see the paper trail from the request for quotations to the invoicing.
Lehora has already said his office, which is also responsible for the Disaster Management Authority (DMA), is reluctant to pay companies hired by the Ministry of Health.

His gripe is that he, as the chief accounting officer of the PM’s office and the DMA, was not involved in the Ministry of Health’s procurement processes.
He said the health ministry officials refused to be part of the Covid-19 procurement unit in the prime minister’s office.

Lehora says so far every office he has consulted has told him that it will be illegal for him to approve the invoices from the Ministry of Health.
He said he sought the opinion of the Accountant General, the Auditor General, the DCEO as well the parliament’s budget committee and Public Accounts Committee.

“The message is the same. They say it would not be advisable to pay,” Lehora said.
“They are all referring me to the Public Procurement Act and the Treasury Regulations and Financial Management Act.”

“They say the laws are clear that the chief accounting officer should be involved in every step of the procurement process. As the principal secretary in the Prime Minister’s office I was not involved in those contracts, it would be illegal to pay those invoices.”
He said it appears that some of the contracts were illegally awarded.
Lehora told thepost that his ministry is now waiting for the Attorney General’s legal opinion which is expected today or tomorrow.
“Only then can we know what’s happening.”

But in the meantime, Lehora is not taking the threat lightly and says he has beefed up his security.
“Honestly, I don’t feel safe because you never know what can happen. I know what happened in this country and other African countries so I am not moving alone,” he said.

Lehora said there are invoices worth about M50 million that have been affected by the impasse between his office and the health ministry.
He however accepts there could be more that are still on their way. The DCEO believes contracts worth M100 million were illegally awarded.
“We want to know how the requests were made, who submitted the quotations, who signed the purchase orders and endorsed the contracts,” said a DCEO source involved in the investigation.

The source said some of the contracts were awarded a few days after the government declared the State of Emergency.
“Indications so far are that it was a free for all. Some of the contracts were so open-ended that they amounted to a blank cheque on which a supplier can simply fill his figures and get paid.”
Interviews will be starting soon, he said.

Documents leaked to the media revealed the overwhelming rot in the procurement of products and services in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
A company owned by John Xie, a Chinese-Mosotho businessman with deep and wide political links, was charging the government a whopping M53 000 a day to use the Manthabiseng Convention Centre as the Command Centre.

Prices for food, gas cylinders, Wifi connection and other equipment appear to have been outrageously inflated. A whopping M10 million was paid to caterers in just three months.
Meanwhile, the National Covid-19 Secretariat, which replaced the controversial command centre, is so broke that it cannot pay salaries and utilities.

Most importantly, it cannot buy the personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers urgently needed in the fight against Covid-19. The reason is that there is no law that empowers it to use government money.
This is despite the fact that the DMA Act says the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office can bypass any regulation or law if it impedes a response to a national disaster.

Three weeks ago, Thabo Khasipe, the Nacosec chief executive, said operations have stopped as government officials squabbled over the secretariat’s legal standing.

He warned that hospitals were fast running out of PPEs and people were dying while bureaucrats argued.
Those pleas appear to have fallen on deaf ears because the Nacosec says it now has to wait for the parliament to pass a law that regularises its operations.

Staff Reporter

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[BREAKING NEWS] Lebona sets curfew



MASERU– In an effort to curb the rampant increase of homicides in Lesotho, the Minister of Police Lebona Lephema has announced a 10:00pm-4:00am curfew, effective Tuesday May 16, 2023. Failure to comply with the curfew attracts a 2 years imprisonment or a fine.

Staff Reporter

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Two nurses deleted for misconduct



MASERU – A Kolonyama midwife, ’Mamalibeng Ralenkoane, who allegedly neglected a woman during labour has been deleted from the nurses’ register for the next six months.

The woman went on to deliver her baby by herself without professional assistance.

In another case the secretary-general of the Lesotho Nursing Council (LNC), ’Mamonica Makhoswonke Mokhesi, has also been deleted for violating a patient’s privacy.

The LNC’s disciplinary chairman, Advocate Rapapa Sepiriti, said Ralenkoane had committed an act of serious misconduct and deserved severe punishment.

Advocate Sepiriti ruled that Ralenkoane “should not be seen anywhere attending (to) patients”.

Ralenkoane was working as a midwife at the Little Flower Health Centre in Kolonyama, Leribe, when ’Mateboho Letlala was admitted there for labour in August 2020.

Letlala told the panel that Ralenkoane took her to the examination room and later left her despite that there were signs that she could give birth anytime.

“At 19:00 pm Ralenkoane examined the patient but left her unattended and the patient had to deliver on her own,” Advocate Sepiriti said in his verdict.

“Clearly the blame has to be put at the door of Ralenkoane,” he said.

Adv. Sepiriti ruled that she should be deleted with immediate effect for 12 months, half of which was suspended.

“During these six months period, Ralenkoane is prohibited in any way from attending patients and this judgment should be delivered at her place of work,” he said.

Letlala in her testimony said by the time Ralenkoane arrived, she was already having severe labour pains and was told to go to the labour ward for assessment.

She said when she stepped down the labour bed Ralenkoane said to her: “Ua seke ua tatela ho hema empa molomo oa popelo o buleile ka 3cm’ (meaning she seemed to be in a hurry yet the cervix had opened by 3cm only).

“I was so surprised because I could feel I was very close to delivering because this was my second child and I could say I have experience,” she said.

She said she told the nurse that she needed to use the toilet but was instructed to use a pan instead.

“As she left me on the bed pan I could not stand from the pan as the pains were severe. I called for help but to no avail,” she said.

She said the moment she got energy to stand from the bed pan she saw blood, she called her but there was no response.

“Ralenkoane promised to come after two hours but there were no instructions on what to do in case I needed help prior to two hours,” she said.

“I wheeled myself to the bed and sat on it, still calling to no avail.”

She said while still alone, her membranes raptured and the time of birth came and the baby was delivered.

“The child did not fall as I was able to hold him,” she said.

She phoned her aunt who told her to find s scissor to cut the umbilical cord.

She said she bled a lot and ran out of energy, then Ralenkoane arrived at around midnight.

“When she came in she asked where the baby was and I pointed to where I had put him where he clamped the cord,” she said.

She said it was then that she got assistance.

The investigator for Professional Conduct Committee (PCC), one Nteso, told Advocate Sepiriti that his findings were that “the mother’s life was in danger as she was found having bled heavily and tired and the baby’s life was also in danger from prolonged exposure which could lead to hypothermia and brain damage”.

“Ralenkoane was not there for the mother until she delivered in the absence of the midwife, this is a case of negligence,” he said.

However, in mitigation Ralenkoane said this was her first time to appear before the panel and has been a nurse for more than nine years.

She said she has two children to support and she has already been punished by the clinic as she was dismissed and that she has policies and loans.

She pleaded with the panel to have mercy on her.

In another case Mokhesi who was the Secretary General of LNC was also deleted from the register for two years after she was found guilty of sharing a patient’s picture on social media without their consent.

She was accused of defamation of character and violating the patient’s privacy by posting pictures of the injuries he had incurred.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Nurses back at work



MASERU -NURSES who have been on strike since Monday are set to resume work this morning after the government started paying their salaries.

The nurses went on a go-slow last week but escalated to a full-fledged strike on Monday after the government delayed their salaries. Some nurses claimed they had not been paid since March.

Morephe Santi, the secretary general of the Lesotho Nurses’ Association (LNA), said they have started telling members to go back to work after the government said the salaries will start reflecting in their accounts last night.

The strike has inflicted huge reputational damage on Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s government which came to power on promises of efficiency.

Minister of Public Service Richard Ramoeletsi blamed the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) and the Human Resource Management System (HRMS) for the delay in April salaries.

Ramoeletsi told parliament last week that the two financial management systems were unable to reconcile, leading to delays in salaries.

But that explanation was little consolation for patients who bore the brunt of the strike.

At least 20 expectant mothers at Machabeng Hospital in Qacha’s Nek were told to go home because nurses could not help them.

Some of the women were later admitted at Tebellong Hospital, a facility under the Christian Health Association of Lesotho (CHAL).

“We were staying at the hospital’s roundavel awaiting our time to go to labour but on Thursday afternoon (last week we were called by the nurses and they told us to go to other hospitals or go back home,” said Maretlotliloe Mpeli, who is heavily pregnant.

She said the nurses told them that they could not work on empty stomachs.

’Matlotla Poling, 19, from Ha-Rankakala said she had to call her parents because she did not have any money to either go back home or to Tebellong Hospital.

The Machabeng Hospital management declined to comment, referring thepost to the ministry’s headquarters in Maseru.

Ministry of Health spokesperson, ’Mateboho Mosebekoa, said Machabeng Hospital “did not expel the expecting mothers but merely sent them back home”.

“Due to the ongoing strike by doctors countrywide …they decided to take those women to the places where they would get help,” Mosebekoa said.

There was similar anguish at Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital.

“The strike has affected all the departments including the kitchen, maternity, and emergencies, but the managers are on duty,” said ’Makananelo Sepipi, the hospital’s spokesperson.

Sepipi said managers were forced to hold the forte “because some sections cannot be left unattended utterly due to their importance”.

“The operations are happening in the emergency section, even though they do not operate in a normal way.”

She said patients whose operations were scheduled for this week were sent back home.

Santi, the LNA’s secretary general, blamed the government for the chaos caused by the strike.

Santi said as much as the government likes to call them an essential service they do not prioritise their ministry.

“They do not appreciate us, it is like they do not see the importance of our job,” Santi said.

“The government turns a blind eye to the fact that our working environment alone can put us at risk of contracting diseases.”

“Now we are not able to buy food and other necessities.”

Nkheli Liphoto & Thooe Ramolibeli

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