- says parly committee’s hearings will compromise Lesotho’s court case against German company
ATTORNEY General Rapelang Motsieloa has ordered the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to stop its probe into the previous Thomas Thabane-led government’s botched 2018 M1, 7 billion solar energy deal with German company, Frazer Solar.
Advocate Motsieloa stopped the probe on the grounds that current and former government officials’ testimonies before the parliamentary committee would compromise Lesotho’s case currently before the Gauteng High Court in South Africa.
The PAC launched its own investigations into the controversial 2018 deal which has resulted in the government being ordered by a South arbitrator to pay off £50 million (M856 million) in damages to Frazer Solar. This for allegedly breaching a 2018 contract the company claims to have entered into with Mr Thabane’s government for the supply of solar water heating systems, solar generated electricity, LED lights and solar lanterns over four years.
Frazer Solar insists it had a valid agreement that was signed by former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Temeki Tšolo. The company says the project was not implemented due to current Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro’s dogged refusal to sign the financing agreement when he was finance minister under the Thabane government.
Mr Tšolo appeared before the PAC last week and angrily denied signing the controversial deal. He told the PAC members, who included former cabinet minister, Nyapane Kaya, that his signature had been forged. He said he was “set up for failure” by unnamed people who had inked his signature on the botched deal.
More former and current government officials had been lined up to testify before the attorney general’s decision to stop the PAC probe.
In his letter to the speaker of parliament, Sephiri Motanyane, Adv Motsieloa says the PAC hearings are not in the best interests of the country as they will expose Lesotho’s defence to Frazer Solar.
The AG’s letter was read out during the PAC’s Tuesday sitting which had been convened to hear evidence from officials from the finance; development planning; public service as well as energy and meteorology.
PAC chairperson Teboho Sekata read the letter before cancelling the hearing.
Reading from the letter, Mr Sekata, said, “it is now a matter of public knowledge that one Robert Frazer of Frazer Solar obtained an arbitration award in South Africa against the Kingdom of Lesotho for liquidated damages running into billions of maloti.
“Following the award, Frazer Solar approached the High Court in South Africa for recognition and enforcement of that award against the Kingdom’s assets worldwide. The Kingdom has since approached the same court in Johannesburg to have the execution of the arbitrary award in favour of Frazer Solar stayed.
“The matter is ripe for hearing. It has since come to the attention of the office of the Attorney General that the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, whose mandate I (Motsieloa) am not questioning, is busy collecting information surrounding the alleged or purported signing of the supply agreement…
“As I pointed out above, there is now a pending case in South Africa in which the Kingdom of Lesotho is a party. Over and above, preparations are underway to approach the High Court of Lesotho to have the alleged supply agreement reviewed and set aside. These ongoing investigations by the Public Accounts Committee could prove costly and prejudicial to our court cases. The very same information being collected by the Public Accounts Committee could be used against us by our opponent in court to gain advantage or even influence the legal outcome of our case.”
Adv Motsieloa’s letter, as read out by Mr Sekata, clearly shows that there is no love lost between the government and Frazer Solar, who the former now regards as the “foreign enemy”.
“The (PAC) committee may not even get all the information they need because some witness may be very reluctant to discuss any information while there is a case in court…The view I (Motsieloa) take is that the situation we find ourselves in as a nation regarding the Frazer Solar matter against the Kingdom is akin to a nation under attack from a foreign enemy irrespective of how we ended up here.
“If ever there was a time to put aside whatever differences we may have as a nation, this is it. I am therefore writing to you honourable speaker to intervene and ask the Public Accounts Committee to consider holding their investigations in abeyance until we are finished with the court cases. I look forward to your urgent consideration of my request. Yours, service to the nation, Rapelang Motsieloa, Advocate, Attorney General,” Adv Motsieloa’s letter states.
Ms Sekata also read from parliament’s Standing Order 43 (2) which states that parliament should “not refer to any matter on which a judicial decision is pending”.
Mr Sekata said the PAC was therefore left with no alternative but to suspend its probe into the solar energy deal.
“As things stand, with the office of the Speaker (Motanyane) calling and informing us of the latest development, we regard this issue as a boundary which we cannot cross.
“This means that we cannot go ahead with our hearings as per Standing Order 43 and the decision made by the Speaker. Let us give the courts and the government a chance to deal with this matter and see where it will end,” Mr Sekata said.