Home Af­fairs Di­rec­tor in soup over Nikuv ‘loan’

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Keiso Mohloboli and Billy Ntaote

THE Min­istry of Home Af­fairs Di­rec­tor of Na­tional Iden­tity Civil Reg­is­tra­tion, Tumelo Rabo­letsi, is in hot wa­ter over a M170 000 “loan” he al­legedly re­ceived from Is­raeli firm, Nikuv In­ter­na­tional Projects.

Ac­cord­ing to a let­ter writ­ten to Mr Rabo­letsi by the min­istry’s Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary (PS), Ran­thomeng Matete on 4 Novem­ber 2014, the di­rec­tor had 24 hours to re­spond to al­le­ga­tions that he re­ceived the money from Nikuv — a company which was con­tro­ver­sially awarded a M300 mil­lion con­tract to com­put­erise the coun­try’s bor­der-con­trol sys­tem and pro­duce elec­tronic pass­ports, na­tional Iden­tity Doc­u­ments (IDS), birth and death cer­tifi­cates for Le­sotho in 2012 with­out an open pub­lic ten­der.

Reads Chief Matete’s let­ter to Mr Rabo­letsi, a copy of which the Le­sotho Times has man­aged to ob­tain: “I am di­rected to bring to your at­ten­tion that there are al­le­ga­tions to the ef­fect that you have been a re­cip­i­ent of funds amount­ing to M170, 000. 00 (One hun­dred and sev­enty thou­sand maloti) from Nikuv In­ter­na­tional, pos­si­bly as a loan from the company.

“In view of your se­nior po­si­tion in the Min­istry, and the con­trac­tual re­la­tion­ship be­tween Nikuv and the Min­istry of Home Af­fairs, I am fur­ther di­rected to re­quest you to re­spond to th­ese al­le­ga­tions.

“Your re­sponse would en­able the Min­istry to form an opin­ion con­cern­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of a con­flict of in­ter­est.

“Kindly sub­mit your re­sponse to my of­fice on or be­fore 4:30 pm on Wed­nes­day Novem­ber 5, 2014.”

Mr Rabo­letse yes­ter­day con­firmed re­ceiv­ing Mr Matete’s let­ter, but would not dis­cuss its con­tents.

“I re­ceived the let­ter this morn­ing and made sure I re­sponded right away in line with the dead­line given by the PS. But I can­not go into de­tails re­gard­ing the is­sue since it’s an in­ter­nal mat­ter, suf­fice to say that I heard about this let­ter about a week ago and its con­tents are ex­actly what the peo­ple who told me about it, spec­u­lated,” Mr Rabo­letse said. PS Matete, on his part, re­fused to com­ment on the is­sue, and de­manded to know how the Le­sotho Times had man­aged to ob­tain a copy of the let­ter.

“The let­ter was be­tween me and Rabo­letse, so un­less you tell me how you got it, I won’t com­ment on it,” Mr Matete said. How­ever, ac­cord­ing to sources close to the case, Mr Rabo­letse’s al­leged loan was men­tioned by “per­sons of in­ter­est” who have been in­ter­viewed by the Direc­torate on Cor­rup­tion and Eco­nomic Of­fences (DCEO) re­gard­ing the Nikuv deal.

Ac­cord­ing to highly placed sources, it is sus­pected Nikuv paid M60 mil­lion in bribes to land the lu­cra­tive ten­der.

For­mer Home Af­fairs PS, Ret­selisit­soe Khetsi has since been charged for al­legedly re­ceiv­ing a M5 mil­lion bribe from Nikuv in re­turn for the ten­der, and his trial is cur­rently un­der­way be­fore the High Court. Mr Khetsi is charged along­side Mot­so­tuoa Makoa, who al­legedly acted as Nikuv’s agent and fa­cil­i­tated the pay­ment of the bribe.

Gov­ern­ment has since fallen out with Nikuv due to the company’s “ex­or­bi­tant” main­te­nance charges.

Ac­cord­ing to Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter Joang Mo­lapo, gov­ern­ment has al­ready paid Nikuv M300 mil­lion, but is not go­ing to pay the M34.7 mil­lion the company is now de­mand­ing as main­te­nance fees.

Nikuv had threat­ened to with­draw from the project if the money was not paid within two weeks be­gin­ning 1 Au­gust 2014, prompt­ing the Min­istry to seek an in­ter­dict in the High Court.

Chief Mo­lapo ar­gued: “The cost of main­te­nance work be­ing in­voiced for bears no relation to pre­vail­ing mar­ket con­di­tions and is dis­pro­por­tion­ate to charges ten­dered by other ser­vice-providers in the re­gion for sim­i­lar work”.

The min­is­ter fur­ther ex­plained: “In Fe­bru­ary this year, Nikuv is­sued in­voices to­talling M34.7mil­lion to the Min­istry for main­te­nance work on the pass­port, ID, birth cer­tifi­cate and bor­der con­trol sys­tems. This in­voice was for the full main­te­nance of the sys­tem de­spite the fact that the pass­port and ID pro­gramme is still be­ing made fully op­er­a­tional and that the bor­der con­trol sys­tem has only been in­stalled in three of the 12 bor­der posts. To date, Nikuv has been paid over M300 mil­lion.

“We will con­tinue to pay Nikuv as and when we are sat­is­fied that we have re­ceived ap­pro­pri­ate ser­vices. So far, no proper train­ing of Ba­sotho has been un­der­taken as per the terms of the con­tract; we in­sist this be done.

“In July 2014, an in­junc­tion was sought and granted by the High Court of Le­sotho, pre­vent­ing Nikuv from in­ter­fer­ing with the proper op­er­a­tion of the sys­tem, but de­spite this in­junc­tion, Nikuv has pro­ceeded with dis­rupt­ing the sys­tem. They have done this on the in­sti­ga­tion of some in Le­sotho who wish to take ad­van­tage of the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion for their own self­ish in­ter­ests. They wish to turn the pub­lic against the ex­cel­lent work done by the gov­ern­ment in re­solv­ing the prob­lems of pass­ports and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tems.

“But we will not be black­mailed or co­erced into part­ing with the tax monies of Ba­sotho in vi­o­la­tion of prin­ci­ples of good gov­er­nance and ac­count­abil­ity.”

Asked about al­le­ga­tions against Mr Rabo­letse, Chief Mo­lapo said: “The real is­sue is that peo­ple who gave state­ments to the DCEO when they were be­ing in­ves­ti­gated, men­tioned Raboloetse re­ceived cer­tain monies from the company. So that has noth­ing to do with what is hap­pen­ing now be­tween the Min­istry and Nikuv.

“How­ever, as a high-rank­ing of­fi­cial in the min­istry, he has been com­pro­mised by this al­le­ga­tion.”

Chief Mo­lapo fur­ther said he would not be sur­prised if the al­le­ga­tions against Mr Raboloetse prove to be cor­rect.

“Nikuv of­fi­cials have been try­ing to give me a bribe so that I can re­lease the M34.7mil­lion they have billed us. We have the money to pay this company but we will not re­lease the money un­til they have given us what we de­mand,” Chief Mo­lapo said.

Home Af­fairs Di­rec­tor of Na­tional Iden­tity Civil Reg­is­tra­tion Tumelo Rabo­letsi.

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