No case against Principal Secretary: DPP
THE Acting Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Hlalefang Motinyane says there is no evidence of corruption against the Ministry of Public Works Principal Secretary, Mothabathe Hlalele in connection with the awarding of the M140 million Senate building tender.
This flies in the face of recent claims by the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO), Borotho Matsoso, who told the Sunday Express’ sister Lesotho Times publication that Mr Hlalele will soon face charges of corruption and abuse of power.
Construction of the new senate building, earmarked for the Mpilo Hill in Maseru, was supposed to have started at the end of last year.
However, the Chinese company, Yan Jian, which was awarded the tender in 2016 could not proceed with construction after PS Hlalele ordered the re-evaluation of the senate building tender on the grounds that some of the companies which had applied for the job in 2012 had been unfairly disqualified.
The tender was subsequently awarded to Qing Jian Group, a company that was initially disqualified in 2012 along with Sigma Construction and China Shanxi Construction.
The three companies were disqualified for failing to meet various bidding requirements and in the case of Qing Jian, the company was adjudged to have failed to submit tender documents that were translated into English and authenticated by the Chinese Embassy in Lesotho.
The senate has so far received M40 million for the first phase of construction which is already behind schedule as it did not start at the end of last year after PS Hlalele ordered the re-evaluation of the senate building tender.
Early last month, the Prime Minister’s Ministries and Departments, Governance, Foreign Relations and Information parliamentary portfolio committee ruled that PS Hlalele was in contempt of court when he ordered the re-evaluation of the M140 million construction tender in 2017.
The committee noted that PS Hlalele defied the High Court which had ruled in 2016 that the tender must not be re-evaluated.
“Contrary to the court order…and without any appeal application lodged before the court challenging the order, the PS Works (Mr Hlalele) made a unilateral decision to order the re-evaluation of the tender.
“This act is tantamount to a bare contempt of court emanating from a chief accounting officer who is expected to respect and observe the rule of law of the land,” the committee said in its report which was tabled before parliament early this month.
And on Wednesday, Mr Matsoso said the DCEO had completed its own investigations into the matter and Mr Hlalele would soon appear in court to face charges of “abuse of power and corruption in connection with the awarding of M140 million Senate building tender”.
“We are only waiting for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to go through the findings of the DCEO and advise as to when Mr Hlalele should be taken to court.
“He (Mr Hlalele) is being accused of abuse of power and corruption in connection with the awarding of the M140 million senate building tender,” Mr Matsoso said.
However, a recent savingram written by Ms Motinyane and addressed to Mr Matsoso indicates that there is no evidence of corruption against Mr Hlalele.
“Following our brief discussion on the above matter, I carefully perused the docket and applied my mind on the evidence contained therein,” Ms Motinyane says in the savingram titled ‘Suspected corruption in the award of the senate building’.
“This seems to be rather complex matter centring on the powers of the chief accounting officer in the performance of their duties, particularly as heads of the tender panels and accounting officers. It seems to me, from our discussions and the evidence in the docket, that there is no evidence that the Principal Secretary (Mr Hlalele) personally benefited from the act he is suspected to have committed … in terms of Section 21(3)(b) of the Prevention of Corruption and Economic Offences Act.”
Ms Motinyane further explained that the case against Mr Hlalele back dates to 2012 when he (Mr Hlalele) was not the principal secretary. Ms Motinyane also noted there were many irregulari- ties with the senate tender when it was first opened for bids in 2012.
“The 2012 irregularities ended up in court and a decision was made. It should be noted that the suspect was not involved,” Ms Motinyane said.
Ms Motinyane further said that following Mr Hlalele’s appointment as principal secretary in 2017, he ordered that the tender be reviewed.
“He (Mr Hlalele) actually ordered everything to start afresh and that all the companies which have previously disqualified be allowed back to compete again.
“Clearly from the evidence, in directing competition, there is no evidence that he was earmarking or preferring a specific company or that his purpose was to obtain an undue advantage for a specific person… In the final analysis, the evidence collected thus far does not fall within the requirements for the preferred charge (of corruption),” Ms Motinyane said, adding, “I am however, considering a second opinion in the matter”.
The DPP’s decision was welcomed by Mr Hlalele who accused Mr Matsoso of having a personal vendetta against him.
“It is so unfair for Ntate Matsoso to use the DCEO for his smear campaign against me especially when he knows that there is absolutely no case here.
“He (Mr Matsoso) spoke to you for the Thursday ( Lesotho Times) publication when he already knew that there was no case because he already had the communication from the DPP.
“There are former principal secretaries such as Messrs Lebohang Phooko, Majakathata Mokuena and Tlohelang Aumane who dealt with the tender before my appointment and these were never accused of corruption or abuse of power for doing their job.
On his part, Mr Matsoso refuted Mr Hlalele’s claims that he had a vendetta against him, saying he only acted within his mandate to investigate suspected cases of corruption.
“I cannot have a vendetta against someone I don’t really know. My only concern is to fight corruption and nothing else. What I know is if you fight corruption, corruption also fights you.
“We are still waiting for the DPP to decide on the way forward after the second opinion that she said she wanted,” Mr Matsoso said.
MINISTRY of Public Works Principal Secretary Mothabathe Hlalele.