Thabane warns ministers on tenders
PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane has 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.
Dr Thabane delivered the warning while address legislators in the National Assembly on Thursday.
He said he would send errant ministers packing without any formalities or warnings.
“Any minister who shall take part in the awarding of tenders, I shall sack by word of mouth without any written formality,” Dr Thabane said.
“Police shall confiscate that minister’s cars and he shall also be locked out of the government house and go home.”
He dared any minister to try him if they considered the warning an idle threat.
“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,” Dr Thabane said.
Dr Thabane’s threats come against the background of Lesotho’s history of irregularities in the awarding of tenders which have seen some ministers and senior government officials being implicated in acts of corruption.
One of the recent controversial tenders was the vehicle fleet services contract which the former seven parties’ coalition government entered into with Bidvest Bank Limited of South Africa.
Government initially awarded Bidvest a six-month contract to run the government fleet from 1 October 2015 to 31 March 2016 after the expiry of the government’s fleet management contract with Avis.
It subsequently entered into a new long-term contract without going to tender and although it was subsequently cancelled, 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. Mr Moleleki’s Alliance for Democrats party was in opposition at the time he made the announcement.
Former Finance Minister, Tlohang Sekhamane, announced the cancellation of the controversial contract in April 2017.
In May, Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) party which was then in the opposition, vowed to confiscate vehicles belonging to Bidvest after winning the 3 June 2017 elections to recoup the money the South African firm “fleeced” from Basotho.
Apart from the Bidvest controversy, 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.
And in his address on Thursday, Dr Thabane also said Lesotho was faced with a challenge of white collar crime which had thrown the country into abject poverty.
“White collar crime is still a serious problem in Lesotho and I have obligated the minister in my office to ensure that it becomes history.
“White collar crime is creating an economic gap between Basotho in that those who have a way in indulging in it are always throwing this nation into abject poverty.”
Dr Thabane said the fight against white collar crime would also depend on the willingness and capability of “anyone with an ambition to be the Commissioner of Police, whether it be the one who is already acting or one who is yet to be appointed”.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Holomo Molibeli, is currently acting Police Commissioner after Dr Thabane sent Police Commissioner, Molahlehi Letsoepa, on an involuntary 90-day leave and recently issued the top cop a “show cause” letter for why he should not be dismissed.
Meanwhile, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s office, Temeki Tšolo, said he was up for the task of fighting white collar crime “but I shall have to engage with the Prime Minister and learn about his political plans in combatting this issue”.
“All in all I am up to the task and will just be waiting to be steered in the right direction,” Mr Tšolo said.
The Minister of Finance, Dr Moeketsi Majoro’s was not reachable on his mobile phone to comment on the issue.