THE Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has called for the finalisation of the court case in which former Finance minister ‘Mamphono Khaketla and one Thabo Napo stand accused of fraudulently awarding the government fleet services tender to South African company, Bidvest.
PAC chairperson Selibe Mochoboroane who recently presented the parliamentary body’s report on the government’s financial statements for 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16 to the national assembly and chief among PAC’s recommendations were the need to finalise the case involving Dr Khaketla.
Dr Khaketla and Mr Napo stand accused of allegedly soliciting a bribe from a local fleet service company, Lebelonyane, so that they could be awarded the multimillion maloti tender.
Two years ago, the duo was charged with attempting to solicit a M4 million bribe from Lebelonyane who had been shortlisted for the tender which was eventually won by Bidvest.
The case has been pending in the commercial court since 2017. And now PAC wants the case to be heard and finalised within 60 days of the adoption of the PAC report by parliament.
“The (PAC) committee was notified that there are pending cases in the courts of law in respect of the issues surrounding payments made to Bidvest. The former Finance minister, Honourable ‘Mamphono Khaketla and one Mr Thabo Napo have been accused in connection with this case.
“The cases involving the former Minister and Mr Thabo Napo must be completed within 60 days,” Mr Mochoboroane said in his presentation of the PAC report.
“The PAC also discovered irregularities in the tendering and procurement procedures in the Bidvest Fleet Services which later cost government millions of maloti.”
According to the report, the cost of fleet management was increased by 60 percent when the government entered into a contract with Bidvest Fleet Services as compared to the time when the government had a contract with AVIS fleet service.
“In the 2014/15 financial year, the government spent a total of M164, 031, 06 on the long-term hire, but the cost increased to M261, 833,030 on the short-term hire resulting in an increase of M97, 801,961.
“The committee was not only alarmed by this situation but also felt that this was a huge waste of public resources and the government must review its decisions on the fleet management urgently. The committee demanded accountability on this issue.
“It is evident that this project was never properly appraised and selective tendering method was irregularly used. This (selective tendering) method does not ensure value for money. It was observed that cabinet made a decision before appraisal and procurement procedures were followed, that is, it was a top-down approach as opposed to the normal procedures of bottom-up approach,” PAC said.
The Bidvest deal, which was for 48 months, was prematurely terminated in April 2017 at the huge cost of M108 million.
To avoid any such huge losses in future government operations, the PAC recommended for long-term hire practices which were much cheaper than the short-term hire. PAC also recommended that the cabinet should refrain from involvement in the procurement processes.
Below are the key PAC recommendations:
- The committee has noted with concern the instability, inefficiency and the impunity within government institutions that must uphold democracy and rule of law, public safety, accountability and transparency.
Appointment and placement of heads of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO), the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS), the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) , the National Security Service (NSS), Chief Justice, Attorney-General, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), President and of the Appeal Court and heads of Parastatal offices must be done by Parliamentary Committee to avoid unwarranted removal of those heads by the political head of government when they do not purse their interests.
Their terms of office must not be renewable. The Minister of Law and Public Safety must bring a Bill to Parliament within 90 days.
- The committee has noted with concern lack of accountability, nepotism, corruption and very poor service delivery due to political appointment of Chief Accounting Officers without considering merits. Therefore, the Committee recommends that positions of Chief Accounting Officers must be made on merits. The Minister of Public Service must bring a bill to address this issue to parliament within 90 days.
- The Committee noted with concern the erosion of public funds to corruption and a gap created by the absence of the law that addresses recovery. The Minister of Justice must ensure enactment of laws that address asset forfeiture, recovery, restoration of victim and lifestyle audit within 60 days. Moreover, we recommend centralised integrated investigative office. Lesotho Revenue Authority, Directorate CEO and LMPS must also be strengthened with adequate resources e.g. building of digital forensic unit.
- The committee has noted with concern lack of capacity of the Law Enforcement Agencies in terms of investigating commercial crimes, therefore, the committee recommends that LMPS and DCEO must sent investigating officers to the international law enforcement academies.
- The committee has noted that the uncontrollable (sky rocketing) wage bill is exacerbated by unauthorised employment by line ministries outside the authorised establishment lists. Therefore, the committee recommends that recruitment must be centrally based in the Ministry of Public Service Commission for all the officers as stipulated in the law. The Minister of Public Service must present the establishment list of all public service to parliament within 30 days.
- The committee has noted with concern ‘adverse opinion’ issued by the Auditor General since 2010 on the consolidated financial statements of the government of Lesotho. The committee recommends that the deputy Prime Minister as the Chair of Budget committee must coordinate all Minister, prepare a work plan such that no adverse option by the Auditor- General recurs in the next financial years. Such a comprehensive plan must be presented to parliament within 90 days.
- The committee has noted with concern poor internal control systems within the ministries. The committee therefore recommends that the minister finance must prepare clear, summarised report on timelines given to each ministry to conduct internal audits and report to parliament within 30 days.
- The committee has noted with concern poor collection of revenue by government ministries. Therefore, the committee recommends that the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) must collect all non-tax revenue on behalf government. The Minister of Finance must report to parliament the work plan within 60 days to facilitate the enactment of a law endorsing LRA to collect all non-tax revenue.
- The committee noted with concern, the very low shareholding of the government in the mining sector. Therefore, the committee recommends that the government should mobilise the resources in order to acquire substantial equity to have control over our natural resources. The Minister of Finance in consultation with the Minister of Mining must report back to parliament within six months.
- The committee noted with concern the erosion of public funds through fraudulent procurement practices. The committee, therefore, recommends an establishment of an independent Bureau of Procurement as a regulatory body. The committee further recommends establishment of electronic procurement system (e-procurement) within a period of three years. However, the Minister of Finance must report progress to parliament every 90 days.