Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Bereng Mpaki

THE gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho is still us­ing cars hired from Bid­vest Bank Lim­ited de­spite say­ing it can­celled the con­tro­ver­sial ve­hi­cle fleet ser­vices con­tract with the South African firm with ef­fect from 1 April 2017.

The Le­sotho Times has es­tab­lished that Bid­vest cars are still be­ing used be­cause the gov­ern­ment had so far only man­aged to ac­quire 193 Ba­sotho-owned ve­hi­cles of the 1 060 needed to ser­vice 26 gov­ern­ment min­istries as well as paras­tatals.

Ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Fi­nance’s Pri­vate Sec­tor Devel­op­ment Man­ager Folo­jeng Folo­jeng even though the Min­istry of Fi­nance was grap­pling with a short­fall of 963 ve­hi­cles, they ex­pected to part ways with Bid­vest at the end of this month.

This is de­spite Fi­nance Min­is­ter Tlo­hang Sekhamane an­nounc­ing in March this year the can­cel­la­tion of the con­tro­ver­sial 48-month ve­hi­cle fleet ser­vices con­tract with Bid­vest Bank Lim­ited with ef­fect from 1 April 2017.

Mean­while, the All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC) has vowed to con­fis­cate ve­hi­cles be­long­ing to Bid­vest Bank Lim­ited if it forms gov­ern­ment af­ter the 3 June 2017 to re­coup the money the South African firm “fleeced” from Ba­sotho.

In turn, com­muter trans­port op­er­a­tors say they have also shunned the gov­ern­ment’s pol­icy of hir­ing Ba­sotho-owned ve­hi­cles since there were no guar­an­tees the next gov­ern­ment would con­tinue with the ar­range­ment.

Mr Sekhamane ad­mit­ted that the South African fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion had milked gov­ern­ment of mil­lions of mal­oti and the bills were spi­ralling to a point where it was dif­fi­cult to pay them off.

How­ever, the min­is­ter did not state the amounts owed and al­ready paid to Bid­vest. Former min­is­ter and Al­liance of Democrats (AD) leader Monyane Moleleki re­cently claimed the gov­ern­ment paid M600 mil­lion in the last fi­nan­cial year to Bid­vest Bank Lim­ited and re­cently fol­lowed this up with an­other M73 mil­lion in penal­ties af­ter pre­ma­turely ter­mi­nat­ing the con­tro­ver­sial ve­hi­cle fleet ser­vice con­tract it signed last year.

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.

The gov­ern­ment had promised to ex­clude Bid­vest from any new ten­der to find a new fleet man­age­ment firm to re­place Avis.

How­ever, the gov­ern­ment can­celled the ten­der process, pre­fer­ring in­stead to en­ter a new longterm con­tract with Bid­vest, which had not bid for the ten­der as ear­lier

agreed in light of its en­joy­ment of the six month con­tract.

Then Fi­nance min­is­ter Dr ’Mam­phono Khaketla had said while an­nounc­ing the deal in June last year that the gov­ern­ment would buy 600 ve­hi­cles and hire an­other 600 from or­di­nary Ba­sotho, with Bid­vest only man­ag­ing the


She also said the gov­ern­ment de­cided to can­cel the ten­der process be­cause it did not have enough money to con­tinue with the route of hir­ing ve­hi­cles.

How­ever, a joint ven­ture com­pany, Le­be­lonyane, short­listed for the ten­der took the gov­ern­ment to court seek­ing an or­der to stop the gov­ern­ment from en­gag­ing Bid­vest.

The 48-month con­tract en­tered into by the gov­ern­ment stip­u­lated that Bid­vest Bank Lim­ited would pro­vide “pos­ses­sion, use and en­joy­ment of the ve­hi­cles for the con­tract pe­riod” with the gov­ern­ment only hav­ing the op­tion to buy the fleet at the end of its con­tract.

The ar­range­ment con­tra­dicted claims by sev­eral min­is­ters that the gov­ern­ment was buy­ing 600 of the ve­hi­cles for its di­rect full own­er­ship from the on­set with the re­main­der be­ing leased from Ba­sotho.

How­ever, the Bid­vest con­tract clearly stip­u­lated that the gov­ern­ment would not “ac­quire any own­er­ship rights of any na­ture what­so­ever” of the ve­hi­cles de­spite be­ing reg­is­tered as “owner”.

The con­tro­ver­sial fleet con­tract was one of the root causes of the split in the Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili-led Demo­cratic Con­gress (DC) in Novem­ber 2016.

A fac­tion loyal to then DC deputy leader Mr Moleleki ac­cused loy-

al­ists of Dr Mo­sisili in the party of cor­ruptly in­flu­enc­ing the award­ing of the deal in Bid­vest’s favour.

Their ire was mainly di­rected at Dr Khaketla, whom they ac­cused of dis­re­gard­ing due process in award­ing the ten­der to Bid­vest at the ex­pense of joint ven­ture com­pany -- Le­be­lonyane -- that had been rec­om­mended for the con­tract.

Dr Khaketla, who was later reshuf­fled to the For­eign Af­fairs port­fo­lio, has ve­he­mently de­nied al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion and even sued some of her ac­cusers for M6 mil­lion.

Mr Moleleki and his fac­tion even­tu­ally left the DC to found the AD in De­cem­ber 2016 af­ter fail­ing to oust Dr Mo­sisili from the helm of the party.

Mr Sekhamane had also re­vealed that the gov­ern­ment would adopt a new pol­icy of hir­ing Ba­sotho-owned ve­hi­cles with the con­tracts not ex­ceed­ing 12 months.

Mr Folo­jeng told the Le­sotho Times yes­ter­day they had ear­marked the end of this month to part ways with Bid­vest “bar­ring any un­fore­seen chal­lenges” even though the min­istry was yet to sign the con­tracts with the own­ers of the 193 ve­hi­cles, which the gov­ern­ment is al­ready in pos­ses­sion of.

“Our ex­pec­ta­tion is that May is the last month we use Bid­vest ve­hi­cles, bar­ring any un­fore­seen cir­cum­stances,” he said.

“We hope to sign the con­tracts over the next few days once the in­spec­tion pro­cesses have been cleared.”

He said the gov­ern­ment was cur­rently fi­nal­is­ing In­ter­na­tional Po­lice (Interpol) clear­ances and phys­i­cal in­spec­tion of the ve­hi­cles be­fore sign­ing the con­tracts.

Mr Folo­jeng said the min­istry had failed to get the needed 1 060 ve­hi­cles from Ba­sotho be­cause of the ap­pli­cants’ fail­ure to meet the con­di­tions of the con­tract.

Among the con­di­tions for hir­ing the ve­hi­cles from Ba­sotho were mileage of not more than 30 000 kilo­me­tres, a mo­tor ser­vice plan and a com­pre­hen­sive in­sur­ance for the du­ra­tion of the 12-month con­tract.

Ap­pli­ca­tions from the fol­low­ing cat­e­gories of peo­ple and their spouses or part­ners would not be ac­cepted: min­is­ters and deputy min­is­ters, mem­bers of par­lia­ment, oc­cu­pants of statu­tory po­si­tions, prin­ci­pal sec­re­taries, all pub­lic ser­vants at the level of di­rec­tor and above, chief executives, man­ag­ing di­rec­tors and all hold­ers of equiv­a­lent po­si­tions in gov­ern­ment en­ter­prises and paras­tatals.

The ve­hi­cle classes the gov­ern­ment wants in­clude sedans, dou­ble cab 4x4 bakkies, sin­gle cab 4x2 bakkies, Mercedes Benz and Lexus ve­hi­cles, trucks and panel vans.

“We re­ceived many ap­pli­ca­tions from many peo­ple but un­for­tu­nately many of them did not make the cut as there were some types of ve­hi­cles we needed that could not be pro­vided by the ap­pli­cants,” he said.

“Such cars in­clude Mercedes Benz, Lexus, buses, vans and Toy­ota Land Cruis­ers. In­stead, most of the ap­pli­ca­tions we re­ceived were for ve­hi­cles we did not want such as Toy­ota Quan­tums and For­tuners.”

Mr Folo­jeng said hic­cups in im­ple­ment­ing the new sys­tem should not come as a sur­prise since it had never been done be­fore “any­where in the world”. He also urged Ba­sotho to be pa­tient and sug­gest ideas to im­prove the sys­tem.

“We will ac­tu­ally be the pi­o­neers of the sys­tem if it is suc­cess­ful. At the mo­ment, we have no ex­am­ple to bench­mark the sys­tem on. So it is not easy at all.”

He said an­other chal­lenge they were fac­ing was the with­drawal of ve­hi­cles by some own­ers cit­ing such rea­sons as not con­sult­ing fam­ily mem­bers.

“Oth­ers com­plain about the pay­ment rates the gov­ern­ment is of­fer­ing, say­ing they were too low,” said Mr Folo­jeng.

Asked whether the ve­hi­cle pay­ment rates had been re­vised, he ex­plained that there was a flat rate rang­ing be­tween M14 322 to M44, 363 per month for ve­hi­cles which will travel up to 4 000 kilo­me­tres.

“For those that travel above that dis­tance, it would at­tract an ex­tra charge of M4.60 per kilo­me­tre trav­elled. We also pro­vide our own drivers as well as petrol or diesel. The owner is only sup­posed to ensure that the ve­hi­cle is road­wor­thy by re­plac­ing the tyres and pro­vid­ing reg­u­lar ser­vice.”

On the length of the con­tracts, Mr Folo­jeng said they could be ex­tended be­yond the ini­tially stip­u­lated 12 months de­pend­ing on the ap­pli­cant.

“Since we are tak­ing the ve­hi­cles as a pi­lot project in the first 12 months, there will be a pos­si­bil­ity to ex­tend the con­tracts if we deem the 12 months a suc­cess.”

To pre­vent in­el­i­gi­ble peo­ple from ap­ply­ing for the con­tracts, he said the min­istry had been invit­ing all the ap­pli­cants to the ten­der process to es­tab­lish their iden­ti­ties.

“We might in­vite an­other set of ap­pli­cants soon to meet the tar­get of 1 060 ve­hi­cles,” Mr Folo­jeng said.

At­tempts to con­tact Mr Sekhamane and his Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary Tom Mpeta were fruit­less yes­ter­day.

This is a con­tin­u­a­tion of the shady re­la­tion­ship that the gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho has with Bid­vest. It started with the com­pany be­ing awarded the con­tract with­out even ten­der­ing for it

ABC spokesper­son Tefo Mape­sela.

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