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‘My hands are clean’

Joang MolapoStaff Reporter

MASERU — Home Affairs Minister, Joang Molapo, says he as invited the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) to investigate him after being tormented by anonymous calls and messages from people accusing him of corruption.

The callers were threatening to expose him for alleged corrupt activities related to several tenders in the ministry.

Molapo told the Sunday Express last night that his wife too has also received threatening messages and calls.

“I got tired of being accused of things I have not done so I invited the DCEO to investigate,” Molapo said.

He has also forwarded the messages to the police who are investigating the matter.

Most of the messages he has received centre on the companies that were awarded tenders to provide catering services during the King’s birthday celebrations in July.

Since July 17 Molapo has received messages and calls from people alleging that he awarded the catering tenders to companies in which he has direct or indirect interest.

The minister said he wants the DCEO to check if he, his wife or other officials in the ministry’s procurement department have links to any of the companies that benefited from the catering tenders.

“I know my hands are clean so I have nothing to fear,” he said.

He also wants the DCEO to investigate allegations that he was involved in corrupt dealings with Nikuv International Project, the Israeli company that controversially won the ID tender in March last year.

The company is now the subject of investigations that are likely to bring down several current and former government officials it is alleged to have bribed to win the M292 million tender.

Molapo is credited with pushing for the investigation soon after he came to office last year.

He also pushed out his principal secretary, Retšelisitsoe Khetsi, after he failed to explain why he signed the contract with Nikuv two months before it was approved by cabinet.

Khetsi is also being investigated for his alleged involvement in the bribery scandal.

So is Mosito Khethisa, the principal secretary in the Finance Ministry.

A current minister and a former minister are also being investigated for allegedly receiving bribes from the company whose officials have now turned state witnesses to avoid prosecution.

But in recent weeks Molapo has been the subject of a rumour that he too has been compromised by Nikuv.

The allegation relate to a trip the minister made to Malta with his wife a few months after his appointment.

The trip was sponsored by Nikuv.

Molapo confirmed that he went to Malta with his wife but said “everything was done above board and it was a business trip, not a holiday”. He said after his appointment he asked Nikuv what their core business was.

“They said we do security systems. We said we are worried because the ID project involves printing and software,” Molapo explained.

“They said they had strong and reputable service providers in printing and software. They then invited a delegation from here to go see the service providers in Malta.”

The minister said he informed his superiors about the trip and that his wife was going to come along.

The delegation included the ministry’s principal secretary, director of immigration, director of passports and the director of National Identity and Civil Registration.

An MP was also part of the delegation.

Molapo said he included the MP because he wanted transparency.

“The idea was that if the parliament asked me questions about the project the MP could attest to what I was saying because he was there.”

The contribution from Nikuv only went as far as the plane tickets and accommodation, according to the minister.

“Beyond that there was nothing else we received from Nikuv. The trip was approved by the government and it was above board.”

“It now surprises me that there are people who are making allegations about that trip. That is why I have said the DCEO must come in.”

Some of the messages the minister has received relate to a Public Awareness Campaign tender for the ID project.

The ministry is looking for a company to market the project and educate the public about IDs.

The minister said when a company he is linked to tendered for the contract he immediately informed his principal secretary, deputy minister and the chief legal officer.

He said he told them about his interest and said “he wanted nothing to do with the tender process because that would create a conflict of interest”.

But he was forced to intervene when irregularities emerged during the tender process.

He said he then alerted the finance ministry about the problems and suggested the appointment of seven government officials to analyse the process.

“That is when some people started saying I have interest in the whole thing. All sorts of allegations started coming up. But because my hands are clean I decided to invite the DCEO to look into the issue.”

The minister said he suspects that there are some people who are rattled by the changes the ministry had made in its procurement department.

These changes, he said, have threatened other people who now feel that they will lose their business.

“There are people who have established relations and they are worried that they might lose out.”

“They think that we are changing for things to benefit ourselves.”

Molapo soon after coming into office asked for records of the past three years to verify which companies have been winning tenders.

He said he did this because he wanted to understand if the ministry’s money was spent properly.

“I wanted to know if the tenders were being given equitably and properly,” he said.

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