DCEO probes M49m ten­der

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - ’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE Direc­torate of Cor­rup­tion and Eco­nomic Of­fences (DCEO) is in­ves­ti­gat­ing a M49 mil­lion fer­til­izer ten­der that was can­celled ear­lier this month by the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and Food Se­cu­rity be­cause of var­i­ous ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties.

This is ac­cord­ing to Agri­cul­ture and Food Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter Mahala Mo­lapo, who said the ten­der process had been “bun­gled” from the on­set in July this year. Six firms made a bid for the ten­der which was even­tu­ally awarded to Machache Trad­ing.

How­ever, the win­ning bid­der’s price was M9.3 mil­lion more than the five other firms. Two com­pa­nies which had also bid for the ten­der, Cubana Shells and Alfa Agro Chem, then lodged a com­plaint chal­leng­ing the min­istry’s de­ci­sion.

Cubana Shells ar­gued that Machache Trad­ing’s ten­der doc­u­ment was ini­tially set aside since its price was too high.

For its part, Alfa Agro Chem’s as­serted that its fer­til­izer met the min­istry’s stip­u­lated tech­ni­cal spec­i­fi­ca­tions, adding that it had sup­plied the same prod­uct for two con­sec­u­tive fi­nan­cial years of 2014/15 and 2015/16.

The com­pany fur­ther ar­gued that it had the ca­pa­bil­ity and ex­pe­ri­ence to sup­ply large quan­ti­ties while also con­tend­ing that the price dif­fer­ence with Machache Trad­ing could not be jus­ti­fied.

The min­istry’s pro­cure­ment unit re­sponded to the com­plainants by con­ced­ing that the ten­der­ing process did not en­able a com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment for all bid­ders.

It is also im­por­tant to note that there had been so many bud­get cuts hence the need to strike a bal­ance be­tween hon­our­ing the claims on me­chan­i­cal op­er­a­tions of the last fi­nan­cial year and procur­ing fer­til­izer for this fi­nan­cial year

The min­istry also re­con­sid­ered the quan­ti­ties of fer­til­izer they in­tended to pur­chase in light of bud­getary con­straints.

“It is also im­por­tant to note that there had been so many bud­get cuts hence the need to strike a bal­ance be­tween hon­our­ing the claims on me­chan­i­cal op­er­a­tions of the last fi­nan­cial year and procur­ing fer­til­izer for this fi­nan­cial year,” the pro­cure­ment unit said.

“We then dis­cov­ered that in prac­ti­cal terms, the changes in our bud­get are such that there would be no suf­fi­cient funds avail­able to cover the de­sired quan­tity un­der the pro­posed con­tract.”

How­ever, Mr Mo­lapo told a press brief­ing ear­lier this week that he handed over the ten­der to the DCEO to probe if there was any im­pro­pri­ety on the pro­cure­ment unit’s part. As a min­istry, we have learnt that this ten­der was mis­han­dled from the very on­set,” he said.

“We have since for­warded the ten­der process to the DCEO for thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tions.”

Mr Mo­lapo said “tough” mea­sures would be taken on any min­istry of­fi­cials found guilty of im­pro­pri­ety.

“The min­is­ter shall also take some law­ful but stern mea­sures against of­fi­cials found guilty of cor­rup­tion in the award­ing of the con­tract.” DCEO Pub­lic Re­la­tions Of­fi­cer, ’Matl­hokomelo Senoko, con­firmed to the Le­sotho Times that the case was un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Mr Mo­lapo in­di­cated that the price for the awarded ten­der did not make fi­nan­cial sense since the min­istry was yet to pay ar­rears from last year.

“We have made ex­ten­sive con­sul­ta­tions and agreed that while the spec­i­fi­ca­tions could have suited the win­ning ten­der, we still have other sup­pli­ers from last year to pay to the tune of M15 mil­lion,” he said.

“Award­ing the ten­der to the high­est bid­der would be detri­men­tal to our al­ready con­strained bud­get.”

The min­is­ter con­tin­ued: “Be­ing in govern­ment does not give us the li­cence to buy ex­pen­sive goods be­cause the de­ci­sion will neg­a­tively im­pact on the peo­ple who need to use them.

“We are de­ter­mined to root out cor­rup­tion and the mis­use of pub­lic funds in all its forms.”

Mr Mo­lapo promised to find a so­lu­tion to the fer­til­izer prob­lem within two weeks to en­sure that the sum­mer agri­cul­tural sea­son is not neg­a­tively af­fected.

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