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Firm denies impropriety in IEC commissioners’ case

Pascalinah Kabi

A CONSULTANCY firm that was engaged to oversee the recruitment of Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) commissioners has denied allegations that it was controversially awarded the contract.

The consultancy firm, Workplace Solutions, also denied allegations that it controversially shortlisted ten candidates of Fako Likoti, Mphasa Mokhochane, Karabo Mokobocho, ‘Matlali Mapetla, Khati Thekiso, Booi Mohapi, Seabata Motsamai, Tšoeu Petlane, Justice Michael Ramodibedi and Sofonea Shale for the top IEC posts.

The allegations were made by the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) in its court application challenging the processes expected to culminate in the appointment of new Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) commissioners.

The TRC wants the Constitutional Court to order the recruitment exercise of the new IEC commissioners to be re-done with the active participation of civic groups through a public interviewing process. The TRC also wants a final order nullifying the appointment of Workplace Solutions as the consultants in the recruitment exercise.

The TRC contends that Workplace Solutions was awarded the tender without following proper bidding processes in contravention of the Public Procurement Regulations of 2007.  It has been suggested the firm did not even have a tax clearance certificate.

In his founding affidavit TRC Director Peshoane Tsikoane said the governing coalition and opposition parties that presided over the recruitment process of the commissioners should not be allowed to undertake such an important process without public scrutiny.

“I confidently aver that there is no law that authorises a conglomeration of political parties to outsource services of experts and consultants to do work for and on behalf of the government of Lesotho without strict adherence to the procurement regulations or laws governing the management of public funds,” Mr Tsikoane said.

He said the awarding of the tender to Workplace Solutions was made on inadequate, incomplete and inaccurate information.  Its findings and conclusions in shortlisting candidates should thus be nullified.

He said excluding the TRC and the public from the process of recruiting IEC commissioners was not only undemocratic but illegal and unconstitutional. This constitutional violation clearly compromised the entire process.

Mr Tsikoane said most of the candidates shortlisted had served this country in important strategic positions.  It was thus important to probe whether or not they had performed well in those positions to deserve being elevated to the IEC. The moral character and integrity of such candidates should also be subjected to serious scrutiny. Some of the candidates had performed so poorly in their previous portfolios that they did not deserve a second chance, he argued.

Maieane Khaketla, a co-applicant in the TRC lawsuit, argues that the recruitment process was severely flawed and compromised from his perspective as a participant in the process.

The TRC’s court challenge has delayed the appointment of new IEC commissioners to replace the outgoing commissioners whose contracts were not renewed at expiry in January 2019. The outgoing commissioners are Justice Mahapela Lehohla (chairperson), Advocate ‘Mamosebi Pholo and Dr Makase Nyaphisi.

They are contesting this decision, adding to the plethora of court cases that have plunged the country’s electoral management system into serious jeopardy at a time when fresh elections appear inevitable in light of the Infighting in the ABC in particular.

However, in her replying affidavit, Workplace Solutions director ‘Mampukula Esther ‘Mota denied the allegations of impropriety and instead accused the TRC of deceiving the constitutional court under the pretext that the case was urgent.

Ms ‘Mota even suggested that the TRC’s case should be thrown out because its application was not based on solid constitutional issues.

“The contents (of the TRC’s court papers) are entirely denied that there is any controversy surrounding the circumstances in which 5th respondent (Workplace Solutions) was awarded the recruitment work,” Ms ‘Mota states in her court papers.

“The contents (of the TRC’s court papers) to the extent that 5th respondent (Workplace Solutions) conducted interviews are denied. The interviews were conducted by the conglomerate of political parties registered with the IEC.”

Ms ‘Mota however, admits that her company “did a hasty job in as far as shortlisting candidates”, saying this was only because they had been given a short timeframe in which to act.

She said they were informed on 10th June 2019 that the political parties had awarded them the tender to produce a shortlist of candidates for the top IEC posts. She added that Workplace Solutions was then six days to compile and submit a list of shortlisted candidates to the parties and this deadline necessitated the hasty action they took to complete the assignment.

She however said that the job was done professionally and diligently inspite of the deadline.

“I wish to add and emphasise that haste is not synonymous with shoddiness. The timeframes given to produce a shortlist of candidates did require the 5th respondent to act with haste”.

Ms ‘Mota said the TRC was a self-appointed human rights watchdog and it had not been mandated to perform in that role by any statute.

She said the TRC’s interest in the present recruitment of commissioners, which they had allegedly not shown since 1985 when the centre was formed, was suspicious.

She further argues that some of the prayers sought by the TRC were outside of the mandate of the constitutional court.

“I have been advised and verily believe the same to be true that the claim to nullify the appointment of the 5th respondent as a recruiting consultant is also not a constitutional matter.

“I have further been advised and verily believe same to be true that the claim to nullify the views, findings and recommendations of the 5th respondent of the shortlisted candidates is not a constitutional matter. I have further been advised and believe same to be true that the claim to have 5th respondent investigated by the 3rd respondent (Directorate on Corruption and Economic Affairs — DCEO) is not a constitutional matter.

“I have further been advised and verily believe same to be true that the request for the dispatch of the record of proceedings in shortlisting of candidates is not a constitutional matter,” Ms ‘Mota states.

The case will be heard on 30 July 2019.

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