MASERU – Parliament has adopted a report by the ombudsman recommending that the Ministry of Communications pay Mophethe Monyake M207 227.56, on behalf of Philips Clearing and Forwarding Agency, for services rendered. The amount is for the cost of clearance for the ministry’s equipment together with interest at the rate of 18.5 percent per annum. The special report to parliament by the ombudsman was tabled before parliament on the February 1 by the Minister of Law and Justice.
It was referred to the Portfolio Committee on the Prime Minister’s Ministries and Departments, Governance, Foreign Relations and Information Cluster for consideration and scrutiny. After investigation to verify claims compiled in the ombudsman’s report, and complaint that the ministry did not comply with the ombudsman’s report, it found that the ministry of communications, science and technology ultimately complied with the ombudsman’s recommendation, and paid Philips Clearing and Forwarding Agency the full amount.
The committee recommended that ministries should comply with the ombudsman’s recommendations or approach the courts of law where there is disagreement. These comes after the ombudsman received a complaint from Phillips Clearing and Forwarding Agent against the Ministry of Communications Science and Technology. The ombudsman’s report states that the agency got a request from the ministry to clear the ministry’s equipment from Germany via Rohde and Schartz JHG.
According to the report, the agency as per request paid taxes for the Ministry. The report states that the equipment in question was for the Lesotho Transmitter Systems under the DTT project. It further notes that that the agency alleged that it worked with Dirk Beukes for the DTT Project and a certain Mokotjo for the ministry and that the said equipment came from Germany through South African bonded warehouse.
The report notes that the ministry reportedly applied for tax exemption which was granted by LRA on the basis that the said equipment was Government’s. “The complainant (the agency) therefore invoiced the ministry only for clearance of the equipment but no payment came forth. There was a change in the Ministry’s management later and the complainant followed the matter up with the new Principal Secretary, to no avail.
“When a new government took over, the complainant approached the new PS who told them she could not help since the matter had not been attended to for a long time. “It was at this juncture that the complainant sought the minister’s intervention but, unfortunately, the later did not pronounce himself on the matter,” reads the report. The report further states that the agency submitted before the ombudsman the necessary documents proving that they indeed rendered services to the ministry but were not paid.
According to the report, the agency submitted customs clearing and forwarding forms by which the ministry had requested the agency to clear its consignment and promised to pay it for all charges and disbursements made on the ministry’s behalf. The report notes that the forms submitted by the agency were proof if ever the ministry found itself in doubt that the complaint could be illegitimate. “The ministry’s personnel had appended their signatures and stamps to forms used to clear the said equipment thereby acknowledging the existence of an agreement of services between the agency and the ministry,” the report reads.
It further states that upon receipt of the complaint, the ombudsman wrote a letter of enquiry attaching the letter from the agency to the ministry asking for the ministry’s comments on contents thereof. It says the ministry had been advised to respond within seven days of receiving the complaint but they did not. The report further notes that a reminder was therefore served on them warning the ministry of the dangers of withholding information which could help the ombudsman to make an informed decision on what to do with the complaint.
When the time within which the ministry was supposed to have responded lapsed on the October 21, 2019, the ombudsman invited the ministry to a meeting to discuss this complaint noting that this was done in an endeavour to speed up resolution of this complaint. The report further states that before the said meeting took place the ombudsman’s office received a response from the ministry showing that the ministry had entered into an agreement with a German company Rodhe and Swharz for the supply and installation of a broadcast network system. It states that the ministry confirmed they received a payment claim from the agency for the services it had allegedly rendered.
The ministry did not dispute engaging the agency but, according to the above mentioned correspondence, the engagement of the agency had been done contrary to the Public Procurement Regulations 2007 and Government Proceedings and contracts Act of 1965. “The ministry further promised to submit information to the Ombudsman regarding clearing services of the equipment in question which documents would supposedly help the ombudsman to finalise the matter.
“In the meeting that took place on the 6th day of November 2019. The ministry’s principal secretary attended the meeting. It was the ministry’s contention before the ombudsman that it was not clear whether the complainant did any job for the ministry or not. “According to the ministry’s legal officer, the ministry was still investigating this matter and had requested information from the Lesotho Revenue Authority on equipment cleared by the agency. “The ministry no longer disputed that complainant’s engagement and services it had rendered to the ministry; rather the latter talked of it being unclear on what equipment the complainant cleared.
“The other argument put forward by the ministry as to why they found it so hard to honour the complainant’s demand for payment was that there was no scope of work stipulated by the principal secretary’s letter, there was also, according to the ministry, no clear charges for the job the complainant was supposedly going to do for the ministry,” stated the report. As a result, on the 27th of August 2020, the ombudsman recommended that the agency be paid M207 227.56 being the cost of clearance for the ministry’s equipment together with interest thereon at the rate of 18.5 percent per annum. The recommendation was to be implemented within three months of this determination.