CIVIL society group, Transformation Resource Centre (TRC), has come out in defence of Democratic Congress (DC) youth league leaders and a joint venture company claiming the right to operate a multimillion maloti government fleet contract for “unearthing” corrupt practices.
In a hard-hitting statement read by the rights organisation’s Programmes Manager, Mabusetsa Lenka Thamae, TRC says it was “appalled” by reports some DC youth league members and officials from a joint venture company comprising of Fleet Service Lesotho (Pty) Ltd and Lebelonyane (Pty) Ltd (Fleet Services) had been summoned by the police over a classified government tender report.
DC youth league President Thuso Litjobo and Secretary-General Letuka Chafotsa last month accused Finance Minister Dr ’Mamphono Khaketla of corruption for allegedly attempting to solicit a M4 million bribe from a joint venture company which had been shortlisted for the lucrative tender.
This was after the government cancelled the tender process for the management of its fleet in June saying it could no longer afford to finance the deal. The government decided to sign a new four-year contract with South African firm Bidvest which had not bid for the cancelled tender.
However, a leaked report on the government’s fleet tender revealed the joint venture company was actually recommended by an evaluation panel to supply the vehicles. After it got hold of the report, the joint venture company withdrew an application it had already filed to enable it to file a new one incorporating the report to provide the court with more evidence for its claim it was short-changed by Dr Khaketla’s ministry.
The minister has since demanded M6 million from Messrs Litjobo and Chafotsa as compensation for the “defamatory statements” the duo issued against her. However, the DC youth league leaders and joint venture company officials have since fled to South Africa citing threats to their safety.
The TRC said the police should have been more perturbed by the alleged corruption instead of the leaked document.
“The police were not shocked at the corruption unearthed by these youths, but instead their concern was on where they got a classified government tender report. TRC finds police behaviour covertly or overtly condoning corruption by not assisting the DC Youth and Lebelonyane, who are on a crusade to fight corruption within government circles to expose these corrupt activities,” Mr Thamae said.
“The seriousness of corruption cannot be overemphasised. It lowers the moral tone of a nation and negatively affects development and the promotion of human rights. Instead of pursuing the DC youth league and Lebelonyane, the government through its police and Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences should have inquired into alleged allegations of corruption on the part of the Minister of Finance.”
He said the DC youth wing leaders had taken a “bold and unusual step to expose corrupt activities within government procurement and tendering processes”.
“This example and noble stance by the DC youth and Lebelonyane should be emulated by all democratic forces…,” the rights group said.
“We want to remind the nation that Lesotho was in the past popular in its stance against corruption that was demonstrated in the successful trial of big multinational companies in the Lesotho Highlands Development corruption scam’. This stance was one contributor for Lesotho’s successful bid to get Millennium Challenge Account funds.
“In recent years Lesotho has been in the news for creating an atmosphere for corrupt activities. We are shocked! It is no question that corruption has a direct impact on socio-economic and political development of this country because institutionalization of the principles of good governance, the rule of law, fair treatment and fair competition are hindered.”
The civil society organisation calls on the government investigate the corruption allegations, suspend “the alleged perpetrator (s) pending investigations into the matter” and protect whistle blowers.
However, police spokesperson, Superintendent Clifford Molefe denied the DC youth leaders and joint venture officials were summoned, saying only one person was detained in connection with a criminal offence.