PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane’s directive to ministers to stay as far away as possible from the awarding of tenders could not have come at a better time.
And if the country needed any reminder that the premier was serious about his pre-election pledge of rooting corruption, particularly of the white collar variety, his recent parliamentary address was just what the doctor ordered.
As we report elsewhere in this edition, Dr Thabane issued a stern warning to cabinet ministers to stay out of the awarding of tenders, saying he will not hesitate to sack those who defy the directive.
“Any minister who shall take part in the awarding of tenders, I shall sack by word of mouth without any written formality,” Dr Thabane legislators in the National Assembly on Thursday.
“Police shall confiscate that minister’s cars and he shall also be locked out of the government house and go home.”
“I am not threatening you at all and if there is a minister who wants to try me on that, I dare them and they shall see. This is just a fair warning,” he added for a good measure.
As we point out elsewhere in this edition, this country has suffered for far too long at the hands of ministers and other senior government officials who over the years succumbed to the temptation of dipping their hands into the proverbial cookie jar which is offered by lucrative tenders.
Corruption is certainly a serious cancer which has debilitated our society and dealt body blows to our development prospects.
And even if Dr Thabane was not doing it for the national good, he would have had to root out the scourge for his own government’s survival.
Basotho have come to a point where they will not just sit while politicians line up their pockets and bleed the country like some dangerous parasitic animal.
Real or perceived corruption can bring a government down and the former seven parties’ coalition can surely testify how they were undone in no small way by the controversial vehicle fleet services contract they entered into with Bidvest Bank Limited of South Africa.
There is controversy as to whether or not ministers actually harvested rich personal pickings from the deal.
What is clear, however is that the contract was awarded with a reckless disregard of tender procedures and it certainly cost the country dearly.
Deputy Prime Minister, Monyane Moleleki, claimed in April that the-then government paid a staggering M600 million and a further M73 million in penalties to Bidvest for the deal.
We also know that a controversial Israeli company, Nikuv International Projects was convicted last December by the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court of bribing former Home Affairs principal secretary, Retšelisitsoe Khetsi, to influence the awarding of a M300 million tender.
The Israeli firm was controversially awarded the lucrative contract to computerise the country’s border-control system and produce electronic passports, birth and death certificates and national Identity Documents (IDs) without an open public tender in 2012.
So the premier’s call is clearly informed not by imaginary but real examples of corruption which are sadly deeply ingrained in our journey from independence 15 years ago.
During the same time, Botswana, largely shunned corruption and used its fewer natural resources to grow its economy to the benefit of its citizens.
We therefore applaud the premier’s call and urge him to crack the whip at the earliest sign of corruption.