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WASCO boss suspended

Pascalinah Kabi

WATER and Sewage Company (WASCO) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Lehlohonolo Manamolela, has been slapped with an indefinite suspension for allegedly awarding a M460 million tender to a Chinese-owned company without following the proper procurement procedures.

The Chinese-owned UNIK Construction Engineering Company was awarded the Five Towns Water Supply project early this year.

According to WASCO, “The Five Towns Water Supply project involves water supply improvement in the five towns of Butha-Buthe, Hlotse, Mafeteng, Mohale`s Hoek, and Qacha`s Nek”.

“The improvement entails construction of river intake works, water treatment works, pumping stations, transmission mains, distribution mains, and reservoirs in the five towns,” WASCO further states.

Mr Manamolela stands accused of awarding the tender to UNIK against the decisions of WASCO’s evaluation team which allegedly disqualified UNIK at the beginning of the tendering processes for allegedly failing to meet technical specifications that were set out in the tender document.

WASCO Public Relations Manager, Lineo Moqasa, yesterday confirmed the suspension of Mr Manamolela in a media statement.

“The WASCO board of directors has resolved to undertake forensic investigation in respect of the Five Towns Water Supply and Smart Metering Projects.

“Accordingly, the WASCO chief executive, Mr Lehlohonolo Manamolela, has been suspended from work effective from Friday 29 June 2018 pending finalisation of the investigation. During the period Ms Mamojela Koneshe will be acting chief executive of the company,” Ms Moqasa said.

The WASCO statement follows a similarly worded memo that was sent to the WASCO staff on Friday by the chairperson of the board of directors, Chabeli Ramolise, informing them of the decision to suspend Mr Manamolela.

Well-placed sources yesterday told the Sunday Express that the decision to suspend Mr Manamolela was influenced by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC)’s probe into the awarding of the tender to UNIK Construction.

“Ntate Manamolela was admitted in hospital early this year after he fell in his office,” one source said, adding that Mr Manamolela was in a coma for three days and he was given a three months sick leave to enable him to fully recover.

“Instead of taking his leave, Ntate Manamolela immediately went to work and awarded the tender to UNIK which had not made it onto the list of the five shortlisted companies,” the source said.

Another source said the issue was first raised by the PAC chairperson, Selibe Mochoboroane, during the PAC proceedings in May this year.

“Ntate Mochoboroane asked Ntate Manamolela whether it was just a coincidence that he awarded the contract to UNIK immediately after he returned from hospital.

“The tender is worth M460 million and the WASCO evaluation team is not happy with the decision to award it to UNIK which was disqualified for failing to meet the technical specifications. This company was disqualified right at the beginning of the tender evaluation process,” the source said.

Mr Manamolela’s mobile phone repeatedly rang unanswered when the Sunday Express called him to seek comment yesterday.

However, Mr Ramolise refuted the allegations that the suspension was in connection with the PAC proceedings. He said the suspension without elaborating, that Mr Manamolela’s suspension was made to facilitate the forensic investigation into the Five Towns Water Supply project as indicated in the press statement.

The PAC hearings into the issue were conducted in May shortly before PAC suspended its proceedings on 16 May after the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Teboho Lehloenya, barred PAC and other parliamentary committees were from using the chambers of the National Assembly for their proceedings.

The PAC proceedings will resume tomorrow after it decided to use one of the senate committee rooms which it deems large enough to accommodate PAC members and those summoned to appear before it.

WASCO and other departments under the Ministry of Water will appear the PAC starting tomorrow.

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