Cater­ing firms fight over M1.6m ten­der

Sunday Express - - NEWS - Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane

THE Min­istry of Health has been sucked into a bit­ter row be­tween two cater­ing com­pa­nies over a M1.6 mil­lion ten­der pay­ment which is now be­fore the Com­mer­cial Court.

Maseru-based busi­ness­man Isaac Josephs’s com­pany Isaacs Food Sup­pli­ers made an ap­pli­ca­tion on Thurs­day to “in­ter­dict and re­strain” the min­istry from ef­fect­ing pay­ment of M1 603 412. 70 to Bat­loung Ts­abi’s and Green House Joint Ven­ture, pending fi­nal­i­sa­tion of the mat­ter be­fore court.

The money, Mr Josephs ar­gues in court pa­pers the Sun­day Ex­press has in pos­ses­sion, should in­stead be given to him claim­ing that he is owed that amount by Bat­loung Ts­abi’s and Green House Joint Ven­ture.

Bat­loung Ts­abi’s and Green House Joint Ven­ture, the Min­istry of Health, prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary (PS) for the Min­istry of Health, Min­istry of Fi­nance, PS for Min­istry of Fi­nance and At­tor­ney Gen­eral are cited as first to sixth re­spon­dents re­spec­tively.

How­ever, the joint ven­ture’s Man­ag­ing Direc­tor ’Maletšabisa Lerotholi, counter ar­gued that the com­pany does not owe Mr Josephs’s firm any­thing, ac­cus­ing the lat­ter and ’Makhotso Matšu­mun­yane, are at­tempt­ing to de­fraud them.

The court heard that on 2 March 2013, Bat­loung Ts­abi’s and Green House Joint Ven­ture en­tered into an agree­ment with the Min­istry of Health to pro­vide cater­ing ser­vices. How­ever, the firm there­after also en­tered into a sub-con­tract agree­ment with Isaacs Food Sup­pli­ers for the sup­ply of stock.

Pursuant to the agree­ments, Mr Josephs, noted in his af­fi­davit that he duly sup­plied Bat­loung Ts­abi’s and Green House Joint Ven­ture with the stock and is­sued in­voices for pay­ment.

He, how­ever, claimed that was the com­pany de­faulted on its pay­ments on the pre­text that the min­istry had not paid them.

“I then in­sti­tuted legal pro­ceed­ings against the first re­spon­dents ( Bat­loung Ts­abi’s and Green House Joint Ven­ture) in CCT/0479/2014 for pay­ment of an out­stand­ing amount of M1, 116, 669. 00 and a judg­ment was en­tered in my favour,” Mr Josephs noted.

Fol­low­ing the judg­ment, Mr Josephs claims the Bat­loung Ts­abi’s and Green House Joint Ven­ture com­mu­ni­cated with the Min­istry of Health through their legal rep­re­sen­ta­tives, with the min­istry “agree­ing” to ef­fect pay­ment to the joint ven­ture “so that first re­spon­dent could in turn pay me”.

“I had at this stage is­sued two more in­voices for the months of Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary 2015 for the amounts of M249 845.70 and M236 898. 00 re­spec­tively,” Mr Josephs said.

“First re­spon­dent through their legal rep­re­sen­ta­tives then re­quested the sec­ond re­spon­dents ( Min­istry of Health) to in­clude pay­ments of both in­voices so that the amount due to me would be M1 603 412. 70.”

How­ever, af­ter the pay­ment did not ma­te­ri­alise, Mr Josephs claims he ap­proached the Min­istry of Health on 19 March 2015 to in­quire about the pay­ments and was ad­vised by the min­istry’s of­fi­cers that pay­ment was ready but was made in favour of Bat­loung Ts­abi’s and Green House Joint Ven­ture since the min­istry had a con­tract with the com­pany and not with him.

“I im­me­di­ately con­tacted the man­ag­ing direc­tor of the first re­spon­dent who in­formed me that their ac­count with Stan­dard Le­sotho Bank was no longer func­tional and had been closed for lack of funds,” he said.

“The same man­ag­ing direc­tor also in­formed me that the li­cense and tax clear­ance cer­tifi­cates of the first re­spon­dent had since lapsed and were not re­newed due to in­ter­nal con­flicts of di­rec­tors therein.

“Fur­ther­more, that should the pay­ment be ef­fected in favour of the first re­spon­dent, then I will not be paid at all or in the near fu­ture.”

Mr Josephs told the court he had not been paid since April 2014 “but (I) con­tinue to sup­ply the first re­spon­dents with stock to my fi­nan­cial detri­ment”.

“I fur­ther wish to aver that the first re­spon­dents’ con­duct of not re­new­ing their li­cense and tax clear­ance is wrong­ful and un­law­ful in as much as it makes it im­pos­si­ble for me to be paid timeously and if at all,” he stated.

Mr Josephs af­fi­davit is sup­ported by Ms Matšu­mun­yane, who also tes­ti­fied that she was the man­ag­ing direc­tor of Bat­loung Ts­abi’s and Green House Joint Ven­ture and “at­tested to the fact the first re­spon­dent is in­debted to the ap­pli­cant in the amounts as ap­pears in his found­ing af­fi­davit”.

Ms Matšu­mun­yane, who is also a Ba­sotho Na­tional Party Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment, fur­ther told the court that the in­ter­nal squab­bles amongst the di­rec­tors of the joint ven­ture has “led to a sit­u­a­tion where its doc­u­ments have lapsed and to the detri­ment of the ap­pli­cant”.

How­ever, in her an­swer­ing af­fi­davit, Ms Lerotholi said, to the best of her rec­ol­lec­tion, Bat­loung Ts­abi’s and Green House Joint Ven­ture had never de­faulted “in any pay­ments in re­spect of any in­voices duly served on the man­ag­ing direc­tor be­ing my­self from any per­son whoso­ever”.

“The only in­voices which were ever de­liv­ered are those which were de­liv­ered and re­ceived by one Nthatisi Matšu­mun­yane be­ing the daugh­ter of ’Makhotso Matšu­mun­yane who is a non-ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor,” Ms Lerotholi averred.

“In our view, this is an at­tempt by ap­pli­cant (Mr Josephs) and Mrs Matšu­mun­yane to de­fraud the first re­spon­dent com­pany fur­ther.”

She added: “What the ap­pli­cant omits and most de­lib­er­ately so pre­sum­ably, is the fact that he him­self is worked in con­cert with ’Makhotso Matšu­mun­yane, (and) de­frauded first re­spon­dent the amount of M1 098 000 and M580 000 much to the prej­u­dice and detri­ment of the first re­spon­dent.”

Ms Lerotholi fur­ther al­leged Ms Matšu­mun­yane “falsely held her­self out and rep­re­sented her­self as the man­ag­ing direc­tor of the first re­spon­dent and whereas she col­ludes with the ap­pli­cant to de­fraud first re­spon­dent.”

The case con­tin­ues be­fore the com­mer­cial court on Thurs­day.

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