Fresh bid to stop govt’s fleet tender

KANANELO BOLOETSE

MASERU – A local company, Kinskay Voyage, has launched an extraordinary court application in the High Court seeking to block the government’s bid to procure services of a local fleet management company to oversee its fleet. In July, the ministry of finance called for applications for the provision of fleet management services in a notice which specified that the fleet management company “must have at least five (5) years’ experience in undertaking similar assignment”.

The notice also specified that the same company must also have professional personnel with experience and expertise in fleet management, policy development, project management and contract management, among others. It read: “The person nominated to act as a project manager for implementation of this assignment must have successfully managed and completed similar types of projects”.

It further stated that the firm and its sub-consultants will be required to take out and maintain, at their own cost, professional liability insurance. In the Kinskay Voyage’s urgent application to the commercial court, Seabata Michael Tsimatsi Mohasi contended that the tender notice and the requirements were “fundamentally flawed, irregular, unreasonable and unfair to Basotho as the tender is tailor-made not to be awarded to a Lesotho company”.

Mohasi is the founding director of the applicant company. The application seeks to challenge the terms and conditions “which the government imposes against Basotho” who want to submit tenders for management of the government fleet. Kinskay Voyage wants the court to declare the conditions of the tender as unfair because they exclude Basotho from participating in the bidding process.

The company also wants five years’ experience requirement, the required professional liability insurance and “interference by government regarding personnel to be hired”, to be removed from the tender. It also wants that pending finalisation of the application, “the conclusion of the Ministry of Finance tender notice number 2/2018/19 for vehicle Fleet Management be suspended”.

In his affidavit, Mohasi stated: “I submit that the tender notice and the conditions thereof is flawed in that the tender document’s terms and conditions as well as the quality are visibly egregious.” He also alleged that “there is also involved a cut and paste work which shows absence of originality” in terms of the new government policy.

He said the alleged cut and paste involved was seen from “the fact that the tender notice document states that a person who tenders should attach the copy of the purchase of the tender document when the said document is obtainable free of charge from the website of the Ministry of Finance”.

Earlier this year, finance minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro announced a new government policy in respect of fleet hiring services. Dr Majoro said government had taken a decision to proactively use large tenders as an opportunity to catalyse the involvement of Basotho in business. He said the first tender under this policy would be the government fleet tender.

In the court papers, Mohasi requested the court to take cognisance of the fact that Majoro indicated on various platforms that his ministry had neither the expertise nor adequate capacity and capability to handle the vehicle fleet related terms. Public Eye in April exposed details of a government closely guarded internal analysis preliminary report which suggested that government lacked capacity to manage its own fleet of vehicles and other big contracts like the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) with Tšepong consortium, a grouping of five companies.

The document is titled: report on ministerial visits by the public sector performance evaluator . Mohasi told the court that it came as a shock that “the same skills-lacking team of officials has crafted this highly intrusive bidders tender document, which is not in line with the newly adopted government policy”.

He added: “I submit that in terms of the requirements of the tender notice, the tender requires a Lesotho registered fleet management company yet there are no such except the foreign companies which are registered as subsidiaries, external companies or extension of companies that have head offices outside of Lesotho.”

The effect of this requirement, he explained, was that it shoved Basotho-owned companies from this opportunity while allowing foreign companies “which happen to only exist on paper”, to compete for the tender. “I submit that on page two of annexure M2 (tender notice) it is stated that the tender requires five years’ experience in similar type of work. This is another grave error because the condition undermines the Government’s policy of empowering Basotho on major business opportunities as per Cabinet’s approval,” he further submitted.

“There are no such companies owned by Basotho as all previous similar works were done by South African companies with one or two exceptions where Basotho were fronting and used as a window-dressing,” he added. The tender notice had also stated categorically that the proposals should include full details of all personnel (including sub-consultants) who will be involved in the assignment.

Failure to adhere to this would invalidate the bid, it stated. It stipulated further that no changes to the personnel would be allowed during the assignment unless prior written approval has been obtained from government.Mohasi submitted in his affidavit that: “There is a high level of interference with the bidder by the government in that in the procurement regulations, a client never ever has to choose or approve a supplier’s personnel”.

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