. . . Solar deal culprits named

Khatebe Molefe

Maseru – Cabinet’s Chief Legal Officer, Advocate Seeng Matsosa, this week implicated former Prime Minister Motsoahae Thabane’s personal aide and a secretary to then Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Temeki Tšolo as witnesses to the signing of the controversial agreement between German company Frazer Solar and government.

Matsosa fingered Thabane’s personal aide, Hlophe Matla, as well as the secretary ’Masentle Ntobaki as accomplices in the saga surrounding the Frazer project deal during parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing on Tuesday.

In her testimony, Matsosa told the PAC that both Matla and Ntobaki were the two witnesses during the signing of the agreement between former minister Tšolo and Frazer Solar which has plunged the Lesotho government into a legal court battle that will be heard on June 29 this year in Johannesburg, South Africa.

She said government has since the emergence of this soured deal challenged the Johannesburg High Court ruling in favour of Frazer by filing prayers for stay of execution against Lesotho’s assets to be seized by Frazer Solar as compensation to the company for breach of contract.

The Cabinet Chief Legal officer further revealed that the Lesotho government was served with the court papers to attend hearings on the matter in South Africa but that “the court papers were sent to the wrong office of the then Government Secretary, Moahloli Mphaka, and not the right office of the Attorney General… hence failure to attend the hearing.

However, the legal officer failed to provide the PAC with relevant documents supporting her evidence but promised to do so later on.

On the other hand, the Oversight Management Director Development Planning, Mothobi Letooane, revealed during the same sitting of the PAC that he was among officers who attended a Frazer Solar briefing held at the Durham Link around 2017/18.

While presenting the proper procedure for a project to be approved, Letooane said they suspected foul play in the manner that the project was being handled and decided to distance themselves from it.

Letooane said in this particular solar project the Ministry of Energy should have been the one that came up with the project concept and that the Ministry of Finance ought to have been notified for the feasibility study to be conducted to evaluate the viability of the project.

He added it was unusual that the former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office was the one spearheading the project, and that not even Principal Secretaries as chief accounting officers were part of the Durham Link meeting.

He conceded that no cabinet meeting ever discussed the project according to the information he has at his disposal.

The director stated that even though the project was meant to reduce electricity consumption on all government offices and houses, it would not be easy and cheap to maintain.

He continued that the project was too expensive as it was estimated it will cost government around €100 million, adding that this money would be a loan the government of Lesotho was supposed to settle at the later stage.

“The project was not viable considering that Lesotho is not even able to maintain traffic lights or street lights,” he highlighted.

He said such projects, in which proper procedures are not followed, end up costing the country millions of money.

Letooane stated that former Finance Minister, who is now Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro, also chaired one of the Frazer Solar meetings in which he instructed officers to look at the project to see how it could benefit the country, but that since the Ministry of Energy, as the implementing body, did not support it it eventually fell through.

He, however, stated that he was shocked to learn recently that Frazer Solar was suing the government breach of the agreement.

Furthermore, two Principal Secretaries of Cabinet, Messrs Thabo Motoko, who is Administration Principal Secretary and Kabelo Lehora Principal Secretary on Economic Issues, also claimed not to know anything connected to the project.

The PAC is chaired by Teboho Sekata while Kimetso Mathaba chairs the Economic Cluster – they held a joint sitting to hear testimony of the Frazer Solar deal.

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