Fleet management expert breathes fire

KANANELO BOLOETSE

MASERU – A local fleet management expert is miffed that government appears to be backpaddling on a pledge to lure Basotho expatriates back home to shore up its development efforts. Stung by the perceived betrayal, Michaela ‘Mabathoana earlier this year wrote a scathing letter to the leaders of the fourparty coalition government, Prime Minister Motsoahae Thabane and his deputy Monyane Moleleki. The letter was also addressed to communications minister Thesele ’Maseribane and labour and employment minister Keketso Rantšo.

In an email dated 5 February, 2018 – which Public Eye has seen – ’Mabathoana said Basotho expatriates, were “mindful of the Prime Minister’s inaugural speech” that his government would “strive to harness Basotho skills” and entice them back country. “Unfortunately, it appears that I have become the culprit of that noble undertaking as I am being alienated and rejected by own country, regardless of my compliance to (sic) procurement processes , professional qualifications and unparalleled extensive experience in the fleet industry,” wrote ’Mabathoana.

“… I humbly request your good offices to afford me an audience to present the attached Fleet Management Technology Based Concept Solution designed to reduce the government fleet cost by a minimum of M60 000 000 per annum,” he added. Press attaché in the office of the Prime Minister, Thabo Thakalekoala, yesterday told this paper that he was not aware of ’Mabathoana’s letter indicating that it has not reached his office. Rantšo also told Public Eye that she has not seen the letter. “I cannot say it has not reached my office but I haven’t seen it or even heard about it. I will check with my office and I will get back to you,” she said.

Public Eye last month revealed details of the fleet management technology based concept solution suggested to government, to minister of finance Dr Moeketsi Majoro in particular, by ‘Mabathoana. Dr Majoro, however, professed ignorance about the proposal. The proposal suggested that if managed efficiently, the fleet could cost government almost M100 million (M96 874 987,00) per annum. It also suggested that a South African company, Bidvest Bank charged government M360 million.

Management of the government fleet has over the last three years been one of Lesotho’s biggest headaches and reportedly contributed significantly to the collapse of the previous seven party coalition government led by former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili. The then finance minister Dr ’Mamphono Khaketla was accused of soliciting a M4 million bribe from the directors of Lebelonyane Fleet Services in exchange for a government fleet tender. Dr Khaketla denied the allegation. The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) insists Khaketla allegedly solicited a bribe in exchange for a government fleet tender.

Khaketla, together with her co-accused, Thabo Napo solicited the bribe from Lebelonyane Fleet Solutions Joint Venture on March 17, 2016, the anti-corruption body asserts. According to the charge sheet, Khaketla in common purpose with her “friend and/or partner” Napo attempted to solicit a bribe of about M4 million from Lebelonyane in exchange for a government fleet tender, also known as Lesotho “fleetgate” which was eventually awarded to Bidvest Bank. The DCEO adds Khaketla was to use her powers and position as minister of finance to influence and ensure that the tender is awarded to Lebelonyane.

The duo is out on bail on M5000 bail and report to the offices of the DCEO on the last Friday of every month. Lebelonyane, which had been recommended by the government’s bid evaluation team during the Mosisili administration as the winning bidder for the lucrative contract to manage the government fleet, was never awarded the tender.Instead, the government announced that the existing contract held by South African company Bidvest, had been extended for four years.

The Bidvest deal was later cancelled and government said it was aiming to establish a Fleet Management Unit (FMU) within the ministry of finance to manage the vehicle fleet for the government. In his February letter, marked private and confidential, ’Mabathoana also took issue with the fact that government had cancelled the tender for procurement of fleet specialist services citing “invalid and dubious reasons”.In March last year, government invited tenders for procurement of the services of a fleet expert to “assist government with managing the FMU and impart knowledge and skills to the FMU personnel”.

The fleet specialist would also “assist government in developing transport policy, procuring fleet management system and also conduct government fleet management and/or ownership options analysis study”. The tender advertisement, published on March 31 last year, indicated that the fleet manager would assume duties from July 3 2017, to March 31, 2018. ’Mabathoana told the coalition government leaders that “to date, seven months later”, the project has not commenced and as a result, “government fleet requirements are in dire straits and largely compromised”.

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