Mahali ignores DCEO order

Mahali ignores DCEO order

MASERU – SPORTS Minister Dr Mahali Phamotse, with a straight face, announced that she ignored the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO)’s directive.

Dr Phamotse, whom the DCEO last week instructed to stop any processes to build sporting facilities and residences for the next year’s African Union Sport Council (AUSC) Region 5 Youth Games, said construction will continue.
Dr Phamotse said she told the DCEO to continue its investigations but construction will not stop.

“We received a letter from the DCEO (last Thursday saying) that there is corruption in the awarding of the games and, therefore, the construction has to stop while the investigations continue,” Dr Phamotse said.

“We responded and told them the games were awarded by Region 5 (body). I think they were trying to say something, we answered,” she said.
“(The DCEO) wanted the tendering documents and we have handed that to them.”

The minister was addressing all sports federations who were complaining about lack of funds for their sporting activities countrywide and internationally.

She took the chance to talk about the DCEO, which wrote her after the Public Account Committee (PAC) grilled it for not investigating high profile cases.
“We have been working on this from March until now. Now that we have started (construction work) they are telling us to stop while they investigate,” she said.

“We told them to investigate but not tell us to stop.”
Dr Phamotse said the tendering process was worked with the Ministry of Finance.
“We don’t have the capacity to do such a job on our own. The tendering was advertised, until everything was done.”She guaranteed that next year’s Region 5 Youth Games in Maseru will go ahead despite the country’s political instability and increasingly toxic environment.

Lesotho’s hosting of the AUSC games has been caught in the crossfire.
With just over a year until the country’s capital is scheduled to host the regional showpiece for the first time, the sports ministry is embroiled in a power struggle with the DCEO, which has ordered the ministry to stop building facilities for the games while it investigates the awarding of the tender to undertake the construction.

Construction of several facilities such as a new stadium and indoor sports arena in Lepereng, which will cost estimated an M2 billion, is yet to be started.

Phamotse said the government is committed to seeing the Region 5 Youth Games succeed, saying it cannot drop the championships after doing so much to ensure Lesotho is given the right to host.

The minister said construction on facilities will not stop and the sports ministry “will see who will stop the builders from doing their jobs.”
The construction of the games village in Roma has already started.
Phamotse has a lot on her plate in advance of the 2020 Region 5 Youth Games.

Last Friday she met with member associations of the Lesotho Sport and Recreation Commission (LSRC) in a lengthy meeting held at the Ministry of Health auditorium.

The meeting came after all 36 LSRC federations wrote to the minister last week asking to meet her after government cut the LSRC’s annual subvention from M13 million to a mere M2 million despite the subsidy being the lifeblood of associations.

Dr Phamotse said the LSRC’s subvention was cut because government slashed the sports ministry’s budget.  She said the ministry received less money than in previous years and, as a result, several projects at the ministry are stuck.

The minister said the sports ministry used to get an allocation of M90 million from government but it only received M67 million this year and there is not enough money.

Dr Phamotse, however, insisted Lesotho will host the AUSC Region 5 Youth Games next December and the 2022 African Youth Games despite the money woes government is facing.
She said government is committed to making sure the country hosts the games successfully.

LSRC federations, for their part, said they will support the minister but not in her political battles as they do not want to be dragged in.
“I can guarantee that we will host the games because the government wants to host the games,” Phamotse insisted.

“I want to tell you the government has our best interests at heart when it comes to these games as well as the 2022 games. There is a political will because the whole cabinet wants the games to be held, including the Minister of Finance,” she added.

“Even though I am a politician, my party’s politics do not come ahead of the sports in this country. I believe if we are working hand-in-hand we will host the games, it doesn’t matter which political party likes it or not.”
Dr Phamotse admitted there is a lack of communication between her ministry and the LSRC’s federations.

She urged her department to get to work and be more proactive in responding to the associations’ concerns quickly.

The minister also addressed an issue raised at the meeting by the Lesotho Football Association secretary general, Mokhosi Mohapi, regarding the political stability of the country ahead of the games and whether Dr Phamotse can give a guarantee the current political environment will allow for the investments government wants to make.

The concern was that usually when governments change polices fall by the wayside because they don’t fit in with a new government and its priorities.
“For these games to be held we need grounds and on Monday (last week) we started the construction of the games village,” Dr Phamotse said.

“You were told that we are going to build a stadium in Lepereng and a sports arena. The stadium will take 40 000 people but for the upcoming games it will only have a capacity of 20 000. When the sports arena is completed it will host 41 games. We are going to build a stadium in Roma as well as a swimming pool and (accommodate) 3000 residents for (the) games village. We are going to have a lot of things.”

Tlalane Phahla

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