THE Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Public Works, Mothabathe Hlalele, has defended the nomination of three Chinese construction companies to exclusively bid for the M2.8 million tender for the Moshoeshoe I Airport VIP and VVIP lounges refurbishment.
Mr Hlaele said the decision was made to ensure that the project was finished in time for a high-level conference that is scheduled for Lesotho in July.
This comes after the director of Buildings Design Services (BDS) in the same ministry, Pokane Monaphathi, requested that the tender panel awards the airport job to either Jiang & MT Engineering, Chu Ye (Pty) Ltd or Debris Inc. (Pty) Ltd.
“The tender panel is kindly requested to grant authority to procure a contractor using a selective tendering process,” Mr Monaphathi wrote to the tender panel on 9 May 2018.
“The request is made on the basis that works for the airport project have to be completed before the end of June 2018 for the arrival of the VIP guests from different countries in July.
“The three selected contractors are capable of undertaking the works and are currently not doing any projects for the government of Lesotho. This would give them sufficient time to focus and complete the project timeously.”
Mr Hlaele said the decision was made in view of the expected visit of three former United States presidents, Bill Clinton, George Walker Bush and Barrack Obama.
The three are due in the country in July this year for a policy dialogue which is expected to lead to the construction of a facility for the treatment of cancer patients in the country.
They will accompany their spouses, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama to the conference, which will be hosted by the First Lady, ‘Maesaiah Thabane.
Mr Hlalele told the Lesotho Times that the ministry was racing against time hence the need to engage in selective tendering.
“There is a cancer summit in July and we need to update our airport in preparation for that event. We are pressed for time and we cannot go through a lengthy tender procedure.
“The BDS considered companies with proven capacity to do a quality job within a short space of time and recommended that the three companies be considered for the job,” Mr Hlalele said.
He added that the three selected companies were registered in Lesotho.
“They also employ Basotho and pay tax. These are some of the factors we also consider when awarding a tender,” he said.
Mr Hlalele further indicated that the companies were selected on merit and not on the basis of where they owners originated from. He said locally owned companies have been contracted for most of the jobs being done by his ministry.
“The procurement regulations stipulate that preference must be given to companies with at least 51 percent local ownership. However, tenders are given to companies which are the most qualified for the job regardless of the nationality of owners.
“We follow the laws that govern this country when awarding tenders as again there is no law which forbids foreign companies from working here.”
He refuted claims that the government preferred Chinese companies in the awarding of tenders.
He cited the Royal Palace, the National Museum, the Police and the Correctional Service buildings as examples of contracts that have been awarded to local companies.
Mr Hlalele also said the ministry was currently working on a policy that will enable the ministry to capacitate the local contractors to match standards of international companies.
“The sad part is that our companies are incompetent in some areas especially when it comes to technical jobs. We are developing a policy which will help them to outbid the foreign companies.
“We cannot stop foreign companies from working here as that would be xenophobic. However, we can ensure that our local contractors are up to international standards so that they can be given jobs on merit and not as favours,” Mr Hlalele said.