MASERU – A deregistered local vehicle management company has reportedly won a M20 million tender to manage the government fleet despite not bidding for the lucrative contract, Public Eye can reveal.
Local firm Silverstone, working in collaboration with South African firm Fleet Africa is said to have scooped the tender in contravention of tender terms demanding the winning firm be fully Basotho-owned, court papers filed in the Commercial Court last week show.
The papers filed by losing bidder Fleeters Holdings’ directors allege the ministry of finance flouted procurement processes and awarded the tender to a company “whose business activities are known”.
The “extremely urgent” court application was triggered by a letter Ministry of Finance’s Principal Secretary (PS) Motena Tšolo wrote on March 28, to Fleeters Holdings – one of the bidders that went through to the final round for evaluation – informing the company that its bid had failed despite achieving a technical proposal score of 70 percent.
“Please be advised that the preferred bidder for this tender is Fleet Africa/Silverstone with technical proposal score of 82 percent and total costs of M20,818,960.00,” Tšolo wrote in her letter.
Fleet Africa is a South Africa-based company while Silverstone is a local company owned equally by Teboho Tlokotsi and Letsatsi Mabona.
Mabona was in 2015 dragged to court on charges of fudging documents to win a tender for his company Jamale Holdings, to collect debts from National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) beneficiaries on behalf of the government.
Jamale’s contract was terminated after it was reportedly discovered that Mabona had produced the fraudulent documents to the NMDS between 2011 and 2012.
He first appeared before the Magistrates’ Court on November 11, 2015 and Senior Resident Magistrate, Peter Murenzi, released him on bail.
He reportedly paid M10 000 as bail deposit and M750 000 as surety.
And, in papers served on the ministry this week, Bokang Tšoanamatsie, director of Fleeters Holdings said Fleet Africa/Silverstone does not appear among the list of bidding companies.
“And that being the case,” Tšoanamatsie added, “it was shocking that a company which did not take part in the bidding process won the tender”.
He told the court that it was clear that Fleet Africa’s current status in Lesotho is “struck off” leading to an undoubted conclusion that it is not operative in Lesotho “at all”.
“A company that is struck off cannot be eligible and or qualify for any work and or tender in Lesotho. It is clear that it does not have the requisite documents for instance, the traders licence and tax clearance,” he said.
In his founding affidavit he argued: “It is therefore wrongful that in the final analysis, it crops up as one of the winners. Clearly the tender documents inclusive of regulations and policy have been flouted.”
According to the ministry of finance’s tender notice published last year, the objective of the tender was to procure a Lesotho registered fleet management company to manage both the government fleet (100 percent owned) and leased fleet (to be procured from Basotho) and to implement government’s policy as it relates to the procurement of transport services from Basotho.
“The additional objective is to assist government implement its policy of empowerment of Basotho in second-tier fleet services such as setting dealerships, provision of spare parts, panel beating, etc.,” the notice read.
It added that the fleet management company “must have at least five years’ experience in undertaking the similar assignment” and that “the proposal must have a full profile of the company as well as personnel that will be involved in undertaking the assignment”.
In August last year, a local company Kinskay Voyage launched an extraordinary court application in the High Court seeking to block this tender.
Seabata Michael Tsimatsi Mohasi, founding director of Kinskay Voyage 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 wanted the court to declare the conditions of the tender as unfair because “they exclude Basotho from participating in the tender process”.
He also wanted the five years experience requirement, the required professional liability insurance and “the interference by government regarding personnel to be hired”, be removed from the tender.
Public Eye was unable to immediately establish yesterday whether the matter was finalised.
In his court papers, director of Fleeters Holdings Tšoanamatsie indicated that the tender document was clear that government was looking for a Lesotho-registered company “and not a partnership or joint venture”.
He said Fleet Africa/Silverstone was “some sort of a partnership or joint venture” and “that was never countenanced in the tender document”.
“It is therefore wrong to award it the tender because the tender document clearly spelled out the requirements, and a partnership or joint venture was not one of them. There is no indication that the partnership was formally registered with the relevant office,” he said.
“Again, Fleet Africa clearly has been struck off the list of companies in Lesotho and Silverstone did not tender. The joint venture is therefore ineligible and did not qualify to take part in the tender process.
“It is therefore ludicrous that it managed to score 82 percent in the ratings yet it should have been disqualified from the onset on the basis of the facts alleged in the body of the affidavit,” he added.
He wants the court to declare the government’s decision to award the fleet tender to Fleet Africa/Silverstone null and void and declare Fleeters Holdings as the winner.
From 2007, government’s fleet was managed by Avis Fleet Services but government’s relationship with it plumbed down in 2015 when the company gave government an ultimatum to pay its long-standing debt.
Avis threatened to withdraw its services with immediate effect if government did not comply, and it eventually did.
Since then, government has been moving from pillar to post in search of a competent service provider to strike a long-term contract with.
After Avis’s exit in 2015, it entered into a short-term contract with Bidvest Bank Limited of South Africa.
After expiry of the short-term agreement on March 31, 2016, government then controversially awarded Bidvest a 48-month contract which was later cancelled amid pressure from a local company Lebelonyane Fleet Solutions and opposition parties.
Lebelonyane claimed it was recommended as the winning bidder by the government’s bid evaluation team and said it was snubbed in favour of Bidvest by the then administration of the former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili which extended Bidvest’s contract for four years.
Mosisili’s government, however, later cancelled the Bidvest deal and said it was aiming to establish a Fleet Management Unit (FMU) within the ministry of finance which would manage the government vehicle fleet.
In the meantime, it said it would procure vehicles from Basotho.
This stance sparked howls of protest from people who sympathised with Lebelonyane saying the company was fraudulently denied the tender.
Lebelonyane directors also denounced the then finance minister Dr ’Mamphono Khaketla alleging that she had demanded R4 million from them to ensure their company won the contract.