Con­trac­tor has tainted ten­der his­tory

Lesotho Times - - News - Mo­halenyane Phakela

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CHI­NESE-OWNED com­pany which was re­cently awarded a multi-mil­lion mal­oti ten­der to con­struct fac­tory shells and re­lated in­fra­struc­ture in Ha Belo in the Butha-buthe district has a murky his­tory of sanc­tions and de­bar­ment by the World Bank for fraud­u­lent prac­tices in the pro­cure­ment process, the Le­sotho Times has es­tab­lished.

Last Novem­ber, Unik Con­struc­tion En­gi­neer­ing landed a lu­cra­tive M790 mil­lion ten­der to build the Ha Belo fac­to­ries on be­half of the Le­sotho Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (LNDC). Last month the Prime Min­is­ter, Thomas Tha­bane, of­fi­ci­ated at the sod turn­ing cer­e­mony which marked the of­fi­cial start of the con­struc­tion of the project.

In a re­cent in­ter­view with our sis­ter Sun­day Ex­press pub­li­ca­tion, LNDC Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer, Mo­hato Seleke, said the 51 fac­tory shells which will be con­structed on the Ha Belo es­tate will cater for the tex­tile in­dus­try, agri-busi­ness and other sec­tors.

The es­tate mea­sures 51 000 square me­tres and Mr Seleke said Ha Belo was cho­sen as the site be­cause of its prox­im­ity to the Cale­don Bor­der Post with neigh­bour­ing South Africa which will make it at­trac­tive to in­vestors for im­port and ex­port pur­poses. The area was also iden­ti­fied be­cause of the lim­ited in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in the district.

The fac­tory shells will upon com­ple­tion cre­ate more than 14 000 jobs, ac­cord­ing to Fi­nance Min­is­ter Moeketsi Ma­joro.

Phase one of con­struc­tion which com­menced in De­cem­ber 2017 is sched­uled to take 36 months and will re­sult in the erec­tion of 16 fac­tory shells. It will also the con­struc­tion of other sup­port in­fra­struc­ture in­clud­ing a 6.5km dou­ble lane as­phalt road, storm drainage works, an 8.3km wa­ter retic­u­la­tion sys­tem and waste­water treat­ment plant.

Some of the ten­der doc­u­ments seen by the Le­sotho Times show that on 3 May 2017, Unik Con­struc­tion made an M801 653,495.56 bid for the ten­der be­fore it even­tu­ally set­tled for a mar­ginal re­duc­tion to a win­ning bid of M790 mil­lion.

The los­ing bid­ders were EXR Con­struc­tion (M957 085 000), Shotha Con­struc­tion (M957 175 815.06) and LSP Con­struc­tion who had the low­est bid at M789 107 700.03.

The Le­sotho Times has since es­tab­lished that Unik Con­struc­tion has a his­tory of be­ing sanc­tioned by the World Bank for flout­ing ten­der pro­ce­dures in Botswana and Uganda where it has un­der­taken con­struc­tion work.

In Oc­to­ber 2013, the World Bank banned Unik Con­struc­tion from ben­e­fit­ing from World Bank fi­nanced projects for two years for fraud­u­lent prac­tices af­ter it sub­mit­ted forged cor­po­rate doc­u­ments in its pre­qual­i­fi­ca­tion ap­pli­ca­tion for a road con­struc­tion con­tract in Uganda.

A Botswana pub­li­ca­tion, Mmegi On­line, also re­ported how Unik Con­struc­tion was awarded a P80 mil­lion wa­ter project ten­derun­der un­clear cir­cum­stances in Novem­ber 2008. The ten­der raised a furore in Botswana’s con­struc­tion in­dus­try due to sus­pi­cions of favouritism and cor­rup­tion be­cause an­other com­pany, ASA En­ter­prises, was ini­tially rec­om­mended for the project.

Much ear­lier, the World Bank had in 2004 and again in 2006, sanc­tioned Unik Con­struc­tion for fail­ing to abide by the pro­cure­ment laws of Botswana.

Asked whether, the gov­ern­ment and its re­lated agen­cies ever con­ducted due dili­gence on the bona fides of for­eign com­pa­nies that bid for projects in the coun­try, the min­is­ter of Trade and In­dus­try, Tefo Mape­sela, this week said that the LNDC was bet­ter placed to com­ment on the mat­ter as the “(Ha Belo) ten­der was awarded by LNDC board”.

The LNDC pub­lic re­la­tions team de­manded writ­ten ques­tions which were duly sent to them. They sub­se­quently said that Mr Seleke was in a meet­ing and would re­spond soon af­ter­wards but this never hap­pened de­spite sev­eral phone calls and text mes­sages to his of­fice.

The Le­sotho Times will pub­lish the LNDC’S re­sponse as soon as it availed.

For its part, Unik Con­struc­tion said their ex­pe­ri­ence in Le­sotho stood them in good stead to per­form a sat­is­fac­tory job.

“We have worked in Le­sotho for two years and we have con­structed the pipes that sup­ply wa­ter in Maseru as well as the LNDC fac­tory shells in Ma­sowe in Maseru,” a com­pany rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Peter Si, told the Le­sotho Times.

“This is enough ev­i­dence that we pos­sess enough ex­pe­ri­ence there­fore we will not dis­ap­point at all when it comes to Ha Belo fac­tory shells,” he added.

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