Botched palace costs mil­lions

. . . as King Let­sie’s new home is de­mol­ished

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane

THE govern­ment has lost mil­lions of mal­oti af­ter con­struc­tion of King Let­sie III’S new palace was stopped be­cause its de­sign did not meet the re­quired stan­dards. Part of the new palace has since been de­mol­ished to pave way for a new de­sign.

Con­struc­tion of the royal res­i­dence, which is a stone’s throw away from the King’s cur­rent palace in Maseru, be­gan in 2010 and the pro­ject had ini­tially been ex­pected to cost M160mil­lion.

But due to a “con­trac­tual dis­pute” be­tween South Africa’s Palace Ar­chi­tects, who de­signed the orig­i­nal palace, and the Min­istry of Pub­lic Works, con­struc­tion was halted in 2012 while part of the build­ing was re­cently de­mol­ished to pave way for a new model.

While it was not clear at the time what the “con­trac­tual dis­pute” was all about, the Le­sotho Times can now re­veal that it had to do with the de­sign of the build­ing which Pub­lic Works and Trans­port Min­is­ter Tšoeu Mok­eretla de­scribed yes­ter­day as “un­suit­able”.

Min­is­ter Mok­eretla told the Le­sotho Times that a new firm of ar­chi­tects, Cape Town-based Makeka De­sign Lab, had since been con­tracted to de­sign a com­pletely new palace.

“Makeka De­sign Lab has been con­tracted to take over and re­place the for­mer ar­chi­tect. Makeka is ex­pected to come up with new draw­ings for the build­ing in April af­ter we dis­cov­ered that the ini­tial de­sign by the for­mer ar­chi­tect was un­suit­able and not up to the re­quired stan­dard,” Mr Mok­eretla said.

“Part of the new build­ing was re­cently de­mol­ished be­cause of that non-com­pli­ance with the re­quired stan­dards for a build­ing of such sig­nif­i­cance to the na­tion.

Once Makeka De­sign Lab com­plete their draw­ings next month, con­struc­tion will be­gin. We are go­ing to hit the ground run­ning. Con­struc­tion of this build­ing has been de­layed and that is not good at all.”

Asked how much the botched de­sign had cost the min­istry, Mr Mok­eretla said: “I will not re­veal fig­ures but what I can only tell you is the new de­vel­op­ments have ter­ri­bly af­fected our bud­get.”

The min­is­ter could also not say what ac­tion, if any, the govern­ment was go­ing to take against Palace Ar­chi­tects for their bun­gled pro­ject.

Re­peated at­tempts to get a com­ment from Palace Ar­chi­tects and Makeka De­sign Lab were un­suc­cess­ful.

But ac­cord­ing to Par­lia­ment’s Port­fo­lio Com­mit­tee on the Eco­nomic and De­vel­op­ment Clus­ter, the is­sue of the palace’s con­struc­tion had be­come an em­bar­rass­ment to the govern­ment.

The Com­mit­tee noted in its ‘Con­sol­i­dated Re­port on the An­nual Bud­get and Es­ti­mates of Rev­enues and Ex­pen­di­ture for the Fi­nan­cial Year 2016/17’ tabled in the Na­tional As­sem­bly on Mon­day this week:

“The is­sue of the con­struc­tion of the new palace has to be taken into se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion and dealt with im­me­di­ately to avoid the em­bar­rass­ment that is al­ready there.”

The Com­mit­tee fur­ther ob­served that the to­tal bud­get for con­struc­tion of the new palace in the 2015/16 fi­nan­cial year was M72 mil­lion, “but M50 mil­lion of this money was re­turned due to de­lays and lack of progress on this pro­ject”.

The Le­sotho Times es­tab­lished fur­ther that in 2014, the Min­istry of Fi­nance ap­proved M131 mil­lion for the con­struc­tion of the palace.

It was also not im­me­di­ately clear if the pre­vi­ous M161mil­lion had all been used on the pro­ject.

The then act­ing Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary in the Min­istry of Fi­nance, Khosi Let­sie, told the Le­sotho Times in Novem­ber 2014: “We have ap­proved a fi­nan­cial waiver worth over M131mil­lion for the com­ple­tion of the new Royal Palace.

As the Min­istry of Fi­nance, ours was just to re­ceive jus­ti­fi­ca­tion from the Min­istry of Pub­lic Works and Trans­port on how the money was go­ing to be used.”

The Le­sotho Times has fur­ther dis­cov­ered that Makeka De­sign Lab is not new to the pro­ject, as the min­istry ap­pointed the same com­pany to pro­vide in­te­rior de­sign ser­vices to the palace in 2012.

Mr Mok­eretla con­firmed the com­pany “was ini­tially en­gaged to pro­vide in­te­rior de­sign of the palace, but was not the pri­mary ar­chi­tect then. The pri­mary ar­chi­tect was Palace (Ar­chi­tects).”

Makeka De­sign Lab’s web­site lists the palace among its projects and notes: “The Royal Chapel for the King­dom of Le­sotho, si­t­u­ated on the grounds of the Royal Palace in Maseru, ex­plores con­cepts as­so­ci­ated with earth, wa­ter, fire and sky.

The build­ing is con­ceived as a por­tal frame struc­ture of steel, Rheinzink and tim­ber.

The build­ing is sur­rounded by the land­scaped gar­den of the Royal Grounds on the one side and re­flect­ing pool on the other. A pri­vate sa­cred court­yard al­lows for re­flec­tion and med­i­ta­tion.”

Even though the ex­act fig­ure of the amount lost in ef­forts to erect King Let­sie III’S new of­fi­cial home could not be as­cer­tained, it is un­der­stood that sev­eral mil­lions have been lost in pay­ing for the orig­i­nal de­signs now deemed un­suit­able as well as the costs of de­mol­ish­ing part of the struc­tures that had al­ready been built un­der those orig­i­nal de­signs.

PUB­LIC Works and Trans­port Min­is­ter Tšoeu Mok­eretla

PART of the new palace has been de­mol­ished to pave way for a new de­sign — File pic.

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