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Kabi fumes over bungled M11,3 million electrification project

 

. . . contractor goes AWOL, fails to connect villagers despite being paid M9, 4 million

Pascalinah Kabi

RULING All Basotho Convention (ABC) legislator, Nkaku Kabi, is livid with a local contractor who failed to install electricity in 650 households in his Qeme constituency despite being paid M9, 4 million for the project in 2019.

Mr Kabi, who is also water minister in the Moeketsi Majoro-led government, made the remarks while addressing villagers in his constituency at a weekend ceremony to give an update on the status of the electrification project which is being done under the government’s Rural Electrification Project.

He said the government had now been forced to engage a new contractor after repeated efforts to get the initial contractor to finish the job failed to yield the desired results.

He said the new contractor would have to be paid the full M11, 3 million to complete the project.

Also present at the ceremony were Energy and Meteorology Minister Mohapi Mohapinyane.

Without providing any names, Mr Kabi expressed his displeasure at the behaviour of the local contractor for disappearing without completing the job of connecting 650 households in Qeme to electricity.

He suggested that the unnamed contractor had got away with his unprofessional and criminal behaviour because there was a hidden powerful hand protecting him.

“We are not going to shy away from speaking up about the reasons that have brought us back here,” Mr Kabi said.

“We are here because of someone who was been paid to complete the electrification project in this community but failed to do so.

“We should have been going to the next community to continue with the electrification project but we are back here over the same unfinished project, paying yet another contractor to do the work which was supposed to have been done by a contractor who had already been paid to do the work.

“No action was taken against that contractor for failing to do the work since 2019. When you try to press for action to be taken against them, you find they are leaning on someone else who does not want this person touched.

“But this forces the government into a corner where it has to fork out more money for the same projects. This is not only happening with electrification projects, it is happening with many other government projects,” Mr Kabi said.

On his part, Energy Minister Mohapinyane said the initial contractor was awarded an M11 339 000 contract to connect 650 Qeme households to electricity in 2019 but disappeared without completing the job.

“He left without completing the job. Just like the honourable member of parliament (Kabi) has stated, that contractor took money out of the public purse. By the time he left, he had already been paid M9.4 million,” Mr Mohapinyane said.

The Rural Electrification Project is part of the Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC)’s ongoing drive to electrify the whole country.

LEC public relations manager Makhetha Motšoari subsequently told the Sunday Express that the power utility had begun processes to recover the M9, 4 million which had been paid out to the unnamed contractor.

Mr Motšoari said the contractor was hired in 2019 to electrify the Ha-Thabe, Temaneng, Ha-Motheo, Ha-Selonyane villages in the Qeme constituency.

He said the job ought to have been completed in 32 weeks and this should have been by 25 October 2019.

“The contractor began working on the project in 2019 and at every completed stage, he filed claim forms and he was paid the bulk of the money. He installed transformers in the villages which were later removed, leading to the villagers lodging complaints with the LEC.

“We later discovered that he owed the supplier of those transformers who repossessed them. He started giving us problems. It became clear that he did not have money to buy new transformers and complete the job.

“The most important thing now is to recover our money. We are also consulting with our lawyers on the matter. There is also a criminal element in the matter and the police have started their own investigations,” Mr Motšoari said, adding the project costs had since increased by about M2 million.

Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro has previously bemoaned contractors’ failure to complete their work even after being paid. Last September, he ordered cabinet ministers to speedily finish up pending multi-million maloti projects and report back to him afterwards.

Dr Majoro also ordered ministers to take disciplinary measures against public servants involved in these costly mishaps because the projects are costing the government millions of maloti without any benefits being accrued by the taxpayers.

He said this after being briefed by Development Planning Minister Selibe Mochoboroane who had toured various projects around the country and found most of them uncompleted. The minister visited 20 projects in eight districts.

Mr Mochoboroane visited the Rapokolana High Altitude Training Centre in the Maseru highlands, Belo Industrial Estate in Butha-Buthe, Ha-Tikoe Phase III, Mafeteng Correctional Service among others.

“Some of the contractors have vanished into thin air,” Dr Majoro said at the time.

“Legal action will be taken against public officers who processed those payments. I order the relevant ministers to go and investigates and report back immediately,” he added. Despite his pronouncements, it appears nothing has been done to ensure the speedy completion of the projects.

Mr Mochoboroane was not reachable on his mobile phone for comment on the issue yesterday.

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