Govt de­fends Bid­vest deal

Lesotho Times - - News - Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane and ’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE gov­ern­ment is stand­ing its ground and has vowed not to re­v­erse its de­ci­sion to award a lu­cra­tive fleet man­age­ment con­tract to a South African com­pany, Bid­vest Fleet Com­pany, de­spite strong op­po­si­tion from a lo­cal con­sor­tium.

The gov­ern­ment has also re­futed claims the de­ci­sion to award the con­tract to Bid­vest would ex­clude na­tion­als from ben­e­fit­ing from ar­guably the most lu­cra­tive state ten­der, in­sist­ing Ba­sotho would still ben­e­fit from the “new ar­range­ment” through leas­ing their cars to the gov­ern­ment through Bid­vest.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Science and Tech­nol­ogy Min­is­ter Khotso Let­satsi, said im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Bid­vest deal was al­ready in full swing af­ter the gov­ern­ment re­cently con­cluded an agree­ment with the South African com­pany to man­age a fleet of 1200 ve­hi­cles through a com­put­erised track­ing sys­tem.

Ad­dress­ing the me­dia in Maseru this week, Mr Let­satsi said the gov­ern­ment was al­ready re­ceiv­ing the “first lot” of 300 ve­hi­cles, out of the 600 ve­hi­cles, it is sup­posed to pur­chase from out­side the coun­try. The gov­ern­ment will next week move to in­vite in­ter­ested Ba­sotho across the coun­try to sub­mit their ap­pli­ca­tions to lease out their cars to the gov­ern­ment, he said. An­other 600 ve­hi­cles are sched­uled to be leased from or­di­nary Ba­sotho to con­sti­tute a fleet of 1 200 to be man­aged by Bid­vest.

The gov­ern­ment last month can­celled a ten­der process for the man­age­ment of its fleet say­ing it could no longer af­ford to fi­nance the deal un­der the pa­ram­e­ters en­vis­aged un­der that ten­der.

It de­cided to sign a new four-year con­tract with Bid­vest, a com­pany that had not bid for the can­celled ten­der.

A joint ven­ture com­pany con­sist­ing of Fleet Ser­vice Le­sotho (Pty) Ltd and Le­be­lonyane (Pty) Ltd (Fleet Ser­vices) then went to court seek­ing an order to stop the gov­ern­ment from en­gag­ing Bid­vest.

Bid­vest had orig­i­nally been awarded 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.

Be­cause of that short-term deal, the gov­ern­ment had promised to ex­clude Bid­vest from any new ten­der to find a new long-term op­er­a­tor to re­place Avis.

How­ever the gov­ern­ment shocked all and sundry when Dr Khaketla an­nounced the can­cel­la­tion of the ten­der process, pre­fer­ring in­stead to en­ter a new long-term deal with Bid­vest, which had not bid for the ten­der as ear­lier agreed in light of its en­joy­ment of the six month con­tract.

An­nounc­ing the new deal with Bid­vest in June, Dr Khaketla said the com­pany would pro­vide a com­put­erised fleet man­age­ment ser­vices for the next f four years. Un­der the new con­tract, the min min­is­ter said, the gov­ern­ment would buy 600 ve ve­hi­cles and hire an­other 600 from or­di­nary Ba­sotho, with Bid­vest only manag­ing the flee fleet. She also ex­plained that the gov­ern­ment de­cided to can­cel the ten­der be­cause it did n not have enough money to con­tinue with the ro route en­vis­aged in that ten­der.

A re­vised ten­der ev eval­u­a­tion re­port which only came to the at­tent at­ten­tion of the joint ven­ture com­pany af­ter it had al­ready gone to court to chal­lenge the minis min­is­ter’s Bid­vest de­ci­sion proved that the joint ven­ture com­pany had in­deed been recomm rec­om­mended as the re­cip­i­ent of the ten­der, scor­ing 81.85 po points against 68.21 for th the other short­listed bid­der, Avis Fleet Ser­vices (Seahlolo).

Af­ter it got hold of t the re­port, the joint v ven­ture com­pany withdr drew the ap­pli­ca­tion it had al­ready filed to e en­able it to file a new o one in­cor­po­rat­ing the re­port to pro­vide the court with more hard facts to prove its claimsl that it was short­changed. DC youth league lead­ers claimed the joint ven­ture com­pany had been ditched af­ter re­buff­ing an al­leged M4 mil­lion bribe re­quest for Dr Khaketla ( see sep­a­rate story). But Mr Let­satsi ap­peared to pour scorn over the claims, say­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the new con­tract with Bid­vest was now in full swing.

Un­der this ar­range­ment, the min­is­ter ex­plained, the gov­ern­ment was also ef­fec­tively part­ner­ing with the pub­lic.

“This part­ner­ship means the gov­ern­ment will buy 50 per­cent of its ve­hi­cles and then hire the re­main­ing 50 per­cent di­rectly from the pub­lic. The pub­lic will have an op­por­tu­nity to lease their ve­hi­cles to the gov­ern­ment from all over the ten dis­tricts of the coun­try, with the gov­ern­ment en­sur­ing it hires 60 cars per district to make a to­tal of 600 ve­hi­cles. The gov­ern­ment, on the other hand, will buy 600 ve­hi­cles to make up the 1200 ve­hi­cles needed. The gov­ern­ment fleet will be man­aged through a com­put­erised fleet man­age­ment sys­tem (track­ing sys­tem) by Bid­vest to the ben­e­fit of all……,” the min­is­ter said.

Mr Let­satsi said the court case filed by one of the los­ing bid­ders had de­layed the mat­ter. But af­ter with­drawal of that case on 25 July 2016, the gov­ern­ment had pro­ceeded to sign a con­tract with Bid­vest. He was ef­fec­tively re­fer­ring to the with­drawal of the case by the joint ven­ture com­pany. But the firm said it with­drew the ap­pli­ca­tion be­cause it wanted to file a new one with ir­refutable ev­i­dence to back its claims, mean­ing the bat­tle for the con­tract was far from over.

Mr Let­satsi said the deal was now rolling and ap­peared to pour scorn to al­le­ga­tions that the con­tract had been sad­dled by cor­rup­tion.

“I want to take this op­por­tu­nity to as­sure you that the al­le­ga­tions (of cor­rup­tion) you have been hear­ing from the ra­dio sta­tions are not true. How­ever, we can­not dis­cuss that now be­cause some of the peo­ple in­volved have al­ready been taken to the courts of law over those claims.

“As the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter, I have talked to ag­grieved par­ties and in­vited them to a round­table so we can un­der­stand what their is­sues are. We want to un­der­stand their ba­sis for mak­ing all the al­le­ga­tions they have been mak­ing. Where do they get all that in­for­ma­tion?

“I am not ashamed to tell you that I lit­er­ally prayed hard and begged them to come so we can re­solve this mat­ter am­i­ca­bly for the ben­e­fit of all Ba­sotho,” said the min­is­ter.

He added: “How­ever, as the gov­ern­ment, we are not say­ing that peo­ple should turn a blind eye on acts of cor­rup­tion where they see them. But is­sues of cor­rup­tion do not be­long to ra­dio sta­tions. They should be di­rected to the Direc­torate on Cor­rup­tion and Eco­nomic Of­fences (DCEO) or the po­lice and courts of law.”

COM­MU­NI­CA­TIONS Min­is­ter Khotso Let­satsi.

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