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New court date for govt fleet tender lawsuit

Mohalenyane Phakela

THE High Court has postponed to 10 May 2019 the acrimonious case in which fleet management companies are fighting over the tender to manage the government vehicle fleet.

Justice Lebohang Molete, who sits in the commercial division of the High Court, resolved to postpone the case when it was brought to him on Monday, saying this would allow the applicants sufficient time to file their answering affidavits and the respondents to file their supplementary heads of arguments.

The government recently awarded the M100 million tender to the joint venture of locally registered companies, Fleet Service Lesotho and Silverstone Fleet Solutions.
However, one of the losing bidders, Fleeters Holdings, alleged that tender regulations had been violated and subsequently sued the government.

Fleeters Holdings also wants the High Court to declare that it the winner of the tender although it is said to have scored 70 percent against the joint venture’s 82 percent in the bidding process.

The joint venture was awarded the M100 million tender on 28 March 2019 while Fleeters Holdings filed its court challenge on 18 April 2019.

In its court application, Fleeters Holdings alleges that Fleet Services had been struck off the company register and therefore should not have been allowed to submit a tender bid. Fleeters further alleges that Silverstone did not submit a tender bid at all. Fleeters Holdings further states that the government fleet procurement documents clearly stated that a 100 percent Basotho-owned company was eligible and not a joint venture.

“It is therefore wrong to award the tender to the joint venture because the tender documents clearly spelled out the requirements and the partnership or joint venture was not one of them.

“Fleet Services has been struck off the list of companies in Lesotho and Silverstone did not tender. It is therefore ludicrous that the joint venture managed to score 82 points when it should have been disqualified from the onset,” Fleeters Holdings shareholder, Bokang Tṧoanamatsie, states in his founding affidavit.

Fleet Services director Bruce McDonald-Watson however, rubbished the claims that Fleet Services and Silverstone Fleet Services did not qualify.

“Fleet Services, a company duly registered in accordance with the laws of Lesotho on 1 November 2015 entered into a joint venture with Silverstone Fleet Solutions, a company duly registered with the laws of Lesotho on 1 June 2008. The joint venture called Fleet Services-Silverstone Fleet Solutions tendered under notice 2/2018/19 for Fleet Services and it is the joint venture that was awarded the tender.

“The application (by Fleeters Holdings) is accordingly spurious, meritless and activated by ulterior purposes. This matter is not urgent at all and the urgency thereof is self–created. The applicant approached the court on the mischaracterised impression that there is no proof that our joint venture is legally registered.

“The lapse time between the dates the applicant was informed about the award of the tender to the joint venture and the time it first approached this court, which is two weeks, is insufficient to meet the urgency of the situation. Our joint venture conformed to the requirements,” Mr McDonald-Watson states in his court papers.

And on Monday, Justice Molete postponed the case to 10 May. He ordered both parties to have filed all necessary documents by 6 May so that on 10 May the matter would be heard to finality.

This was after presentations from both sides lawyers. Fleeters Holdings’ lawyer, Advocate Khotso Nthontho had pleaded with the court to give him more time to file his answering affidavit. He also asked the court to block the signing of the fleet management contract until his clients’ lawsuit was heard to finality.

“I am almost done preparing our answering affidavit and 80 percent of the work is done. Our heads deal with the issue of urgency which we had hoped would be heard today (Monday). We prayed that the court should stay the signing of the (fleet management) contract (between the government and the Fleet Service Lesotho/Silverstone Fleet Solutions joint venture) pending the finalisation of this matter,” Adv Nthontho submitted.

Adv Christopher Lephuthing who is representing the defendants (Fleet Service Lesotho/Silverstone Fleet Solutions), replied by saying that his clients should commence the work of managing the government fleet by June. He also argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed on the grounds that Fleeters Holdings does not have the legal authority to file such a case.

“The government had been hiring Basotho vehicles but it is now moving to save costs as that has been expensive hence the sourcing a fleet management company.

“The contract with the joint venture of Silverstone was supposed to have been signed last week as they are expected to be fully operational by the beginning of June.

“The applicant doesn’t have locus standi (legal standing) to file the case because they tendered as a consortium of four companies but now they neglected other companies and came to court alone seeking to be regarded as the tender winners. That is nonsensical as they are defrauding their own partners. If this matter is postponed, it will be at the expense of the government which is trying to save money (by finalising the tender agreement,” Adv Lephuthing said.

However, Justice Molete postponed the hearing of the case to 10 May to allow the applicants sufficient time to file their answering affidavits and the respondents to file their supplementary heads of arguments.

“I do not want to put time limits and constraints on senior people of your calibre. I do not see why everything cannot be filed by Monday (6 May) and we proceed on the 10th (of May). The party which fails to file will face the consequences on the day.

“I do not see why the government would go ahead and sign the contract when there is case challenging the same issue.  Everything, including the stay of the signing of the contract will be deliberated on when we meet again. The matter is postponed to 10 May for hearing,” Justice Molete ordered.

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