Fleet firm fights Bidvest deal
THE joint venture company seeking to block South African firm, Bidvest Fleet Company’s contract with government will today file a fresh application in the Commercial Court in light of revelations it was the preferred bidder.
Six of the company’s directors last week skipped the country along with Democratic Congress (DC) youth league officials fearing for their lives after alleging massive corruption in the handling of the lucrative government fleet contract.
However, one of the directors, Letsatsi Mabona, yesterday told the Lesotho Times from his hideout in South Africa they “would not rest until we get that contract because we deserve it”.
The company’s lawyer, Attorney Tumisang Mosotho, also confirmed they would be filing a revised application today, but would not be drawn to elaborate.
The joint venture company, which consists of Fleet Service Lesotho (Pty) Ltd and Lebelonyane (Pty) Ltd (Fleet Services), had been shortlisted and recommended for the multimillion-maloti tender to provide vehicles and related services to the government by an evaluation board.
However, the government decided to cancel the tender process in June this year, and signed a new contract with Bidvest. Announcing the new deal with Bidvest, Finance Minister Dr ’Mamphono Khaketla said the government could no longer afford to finance the deal under the parameters envisaged under that tender, adding Bidvest would provide computerised fleet management services for the next four years.
Under the new contract, the minister said, the government would buy 600 vehicles and hire another 600 from ordinary Basotho, with Bidvest only managing the fleet.
The joint venture company then filed an urgent application in the Commercial Court seeking to block the contract, only to withdraw it after getting hold of a revised tender evaluation report that recommended them as the recipients of the tender.
The report revealed that of the two final shortlisted companies – Fleet Services and Seahlolo Transport Logistics (Pty) Limited trading as Avis Fleet Services (Seahlolo) – the evaluation team recommended the tender to be awarded to Fleet Services which scored 81.85 points against 68.21 points for Seahlolo.
However, DC youth league President Thuso Litjobo and Secretary-General Letuka Chafotsa, last month made sensational allegations Dr Khaketla had attempted to solicit a M4 million bribe from the joint venture company. The allegation was echoed by the joint venture firm which also alleged the minister used a proxy to make her demand.
Dr Khaketla has since denied the allegations, and demanded M6 million from Messrs Litjobo and Chafotsa as compensation for the “defamatory statements”.
The joint venture company’s directors and DC youth league officials last week cited death threats they were receiving and a tip off police had been given “strict” instructions to torture them into disclosing who gave them the confidential evaluation report of the original fleet tender as the reasons for fleeing the country.
The DC youth wing officials now in exile include Mr Chafotsa, Chairman Lekhotla Matsaba, and youth league spokesperson Maliehe Lemphane.
Mr Mabona told this paper he was perplexed the authorities were “more concerned” about the leaked document than the alleged corruption.
“We find it quite strange and suspicious that after whistleblowing about the corruption that exists in the government, we are the ones being chased by the police as if we are criminals,” he said.
“We are certain the police were instructed to not only hunt us down, but assault us until we revealed how we got the report. This is very disturbing.”
Mr Mabona was quick to indicate they were not going to be intimidated. “We will fight this to the end. We are innocent here, but we are being treated like criminals. In fact, we are the victims of corruption since we reported to the law enforcement authorities in Lesotho.”
Asked about the conditions of their exile, he said: “To tell you the truth, we wish we could be back home soonest. It is not easy at all being here. “Our lives are stagnant as long as we are still here. Our families back home are frustrated and miserable. We are appealing to the government to urgently address this situation because it is really getting out of hand.”
Meanwhile, police spokesperson, Superintendent Clifford Molefe has consistently denied the DC youth leaders and joint venture officials’ allegations, saying only one person was detained in connection with a criminal offence.