DCEO urged to fast-track Mpilo tender
…Molapo fears funds could be diverted
MASERU – The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) has been asked to fast-track investigations into the controversial tender for the Mpilo Road Boulevard intersections revamp, to lift the freeze on the M340 million project.
Local Government and Chieftainship Minister, Mahala Molapo, on November 7 warned DCEO Director General Advocate Mahlomola Manyokole the ministry risked losing funding for the project if it was delayed further.
Molapo, whose name has been mentioned in a nefarious scheme to unprocedurally award the lucrative tender to a government acolyte, said in a letter to Manyokole he feared the funds could be diverted to other projects.
In the letter, Molapo assured Manyokole of compliance with his directive that signing of the contract be stopped but said any further delay might cause the funder to withdraw funds.
“Following your directive, compliance is assured pending investigation on the same matter, however, I would like to bring to your attention that any further delay might cause the funder (Road Fund) to withdraw or relocate funds to other endeavours.”
Molapo’s letter further said: “It should be borne in mind that we are left with only four months before the financial year ends. Therefore, my humble request is that your office should fast-tract investigations.”
Manyokele in October ordered Maseru City Council (MCC) to stop the processes of awarding the multi-million tender for the improvement of Mpilo Boulevard intersections pending investigations to determine if the tendering process had been above aboard.
Advocate Manyokole also ordered Maseru Town Clerk, Moeko Maboee, to hand over all documents relating to the tender.
“Your good office is therefore requested to furnish this office with certified copies of the information relating to the Mpilo Boulevard Intersections tender on or before 1600hrs today the 22nd of October 2019. Invitation to tender, tender documents, tender opening minutes, the evaluation report, tender board minutes and any other information relating to the tender process should be supplied.
“In terms of Section 6 of Prevention of Corruption and Economic Offences Act, you are also directed to stop the tender and processes with immediate effect and revoke any award of the tender if it has been awarded pending our advice on the on-going investigation,” Adv. Manyokole advised in his letter.
The tender panel was reportedly waiting for the consultant’s evaluation report recommending who to award the contract to when former minister Litsoane Litšoane dissolved the body.
Local Government Principal Secretary, Khothatso Tšooana, recently told the Public Accounts Committee that First Lady, ’Maesaiah Thabane, directed that the lucrative tender be awarded to a Chinese company.
Tšooana also said two cabinet ministers – Molapo and Chalane Phori of Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing – supported the directive.
Tšooana appeared before the PAC alongside the MCC Town Clerk Moeko Maboee where the pair told the committee that they were pressured to award the tender to the construction company.
According to Tšooana, the First Lady and the two ministers delivered the order in a meeting at State House, Maseru on 15 October 2019. This was just three days before the MCC’s tender board met to study the tendering evaluation report before deciding the winning bid.
“We got a message to report to State House,” Tšooana told the PAC.
“It was on a Tuesday (15 October 2019) and the minister (Molapo) left the cabinet meeting and we all met at State House. We were called upstairs and we found the First Lady, the honourable prime minister and Minister Chalane Phori. We sat down and listened and Ntate Phori is the one who narrated everything. He said the First Lady then left the meeting.
Tšooana said while Thabane (PM) was part of the meeting, he advised them against any improper conduct and instead told them to “go and do the right thing” by awarding the tender to the deserving bidder.
He said Thabane narrated how he was once offered a lot of money by an unnamed European during his time as a civil servant.
“Ntate Thabane told us that he told the white man to keep his money and leave. He said the white man said to him, ‘You are a fool’. He (Thabane) then told us to also ‘go and do the right thing and know that will make me happy’.
“He told us, ‘Do not take a bribe’. The meeting was then adjourned and we left,” Tšooana reportedly said.
The Mpilo Boulevard tender appears to be one of the issues at the centre of the government’s stand-off with the MCC which saw then Local Government minister, Litšoane Litšoane, disband the MCC tender panel in August 2019 only for the panel to be reinstated by a High Court order.
Justice Molefi Makara ruled that Mr Litšoane had no right to dissolve the panel without giving it a chance to defend itself.
Mr Litšoane dissolved the panel on the grounds that some councillors sat on the panel and awarded tenders in contravention of the Local Government Act of 1997 which specifically prohibits councillors from being part of the tender panel.