Fleet management expert breaks silence

KANANELO BOLOETSE

MASERU – In March, Public Eye revealed details of a report titled Fleet Management Solution submitted to government by local fl eet management expert Michael ‘Mabathoana. Amongst others, the report proposed sound fl eet management policies which when performed on the backbone of the Integrated Fleet Management System, could see government saving at least M60 million per annum on fleet procurement and management expenditure.

The revelation of these details, against the backdrop of government’s announcement that its future vehicle needs would be procured from Basotho, triggered allegations that government had plagiarised ‘Mabathoana’s work. The new government scheme was criticised by observers as a “carbon copy” of ‘Mabathoana’s concept. People who sympathised with ‘Mabathoana alleged that government wanted to use his intellectual property without crediting him.

Finance Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro found himself at the centre of the controversy, but professed ignorance on ‘Mabathoana’s Fleet Management Solution, indicating that there was no way he could plagiarise something he had not seen or even heard about. The synonyms for plagiarism in the Encarta World English Dictionary include copying, lifting, stealing, illegal use, breach of copyright. Strictly defined, plagiarism is, according to the English Oxford Dictionary, the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.

‘Mabathoana endeavoured, albeit brief ly, to clear-off the debate insisting that his proposal was “private and confidential” and indicated he was willing to discuss neither the document nor circumstances surrounding it. However this week he broke his silence on issues surrounding his allegedly plagiarised work. In an exclusive interview with Public Eye on Monday, he confirmed that his document was “in fact prepared for the finance ministry” and was delivered to the minister of finance Dr Majoro’s private email address.

Even though ‘Mabathoana admitted that Majoro did not acknowledge receipt of the said document, he laughed off the latter’s defence that he had not seen the document. “My first communication with him was on June 27, last year. I asked for his email address explaining to him that there was a document I wanted to send him. He gave me his email address and I emailed the document the following day,” he said.He added that “on June 29, we met at a memorial service of one the ABC’s (All Basotho Convention) bigwigs held at Lesotho High School and I told him that I had sent the document to his email”.

On July 24, he further showed, he sent Majoro another document – a revised version of the initial document. ‘Mabathoana said the email correspondences led to a face-to-face meeting with Majoro in his office. “We met in his office and briefly discussed the issue of procurement and management of the government’s fl eet. There is no way he can say he was or is still unaware of my proposal. The minister even told me that government was considering procuring its future vehicle needs from Basotho,” he said.

He further indicated that as the one and only indigenous fleet management expert, he has grown increasingly concerned about the current state of the government fleet and the interventions government has been trying to come up with, and that he wanted to contribute positively to the discourse. Majoro announced recently that government “will procure vehicles only from dealerships registered and trading in Lesotho with significant Basotho ownership”. Vehicle service, provision of vehicle parts, and panel beating will also be procured from Basotho enterprises accredited under this new scheme.

In order to achieve efficiency and effectiveness, he said government will procure a professional fleet management service provider which will be paid a fee for the service. ‘Mabathoana told Public Eye on Monday that “significant Basotho ownership opens the back door for Transfer Pricing by the foreign companies” as that means Basotho will own shareholding in secondary profits. He also said that there was “a very important component missing” from the government’s proposed scheme but could not say what the component was. He suggested that the “missing component” was “so important” that it was almost equivalent to the recipe for KFC’s signature original fried chicken, a mostly guarded trade secret.

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