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Govt backlists construction firms

by Lesotho Times
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Pascalinah Kabi

THE Ministry of Education has blacklisted two construction companies that are suspected to have been formed by directors of some firms which defrauded the government millions of maloti in 2011.

The companies were among several firms which bid for tenders to construct 16 classrooms in eight of the country’s 10 districts in March this year.

The directors almost succeeded in winning the tenders by registering different company names from the ones they had registered in 2011 but were given away by their directors’ names.

In 2011 there were several companies that were found to have fraudulently received multi-million payments from governments for the construction of schools when they did not carry out the work.

The 2011 scandal was only unearthed after the former minister, ‘Makabelo Mosothoane, suspended four senior ministry officials for alleged corruption in facilitating payments to companies for work that was not done.

The suspended officials were the then Deputy Principal Secretary ’Mota Sekonyela, Chief Education Officer Thuto Ntsekhe-Mokhehle, Senior Quantity Surveyor Leemisa Mokone and Quantity Surveyor Halieo Lesela-Pitso.

As part of efforts to ensure that all suspects were brought to book, the ministry further blacklisted all the companies that were paid for building ‘ghost’ schools.

But in a turn of events this year, the directors of two of the backlisted companies formed new firms and bid for new projects in the Education ministry.

The principal secretary in the Ministry of Education, Thabang Lebese, said his ministry recently uncovered the scam by the directors of two of the blacklisted companies to get tenders through the backdoor.

Dr Lebese said the directors of the two companies responded to the invitation by his office to bid for tenders to construct classrooms across the country.

Dr Lebese said the two companies met the tender specifications and had already been awarded contracts worth more than M800 000 when he discovered that their directors were the same as the companies that defrauded the government of millions of maloti when they were paid for construction work they never undertook in 2011.

“It is true that we have blacklisted companies that were part of a scam to defraud the ministry millions of maloti. These companies were actually blacklisted in 2011. However, due to their directors’ shrewdness, they usually resurface under new names.

“I have names and proof to that effect. I know what I am talking about and the beauty of this game is that people usually get caught when there are people dedicated to their jobs and have this country’s best interests at heart. I am not blowing my trumpet here but my sharp eye to detail helped catch these companies before they were awarded contracts.

“On average each contractor was going to be paid M800 000 per school constructed and they were going to build schools in the urban areas,” Dr Lebese said.

He said the investigations were ordered after the tender panel had completed its work and had already awarded the contracts to build some of the 16 schools.

Dr Lebese said the problem was that companies were allowed to register without a due diligence being conducted on the directors.

He however, said he would not disclose the names of the companies and their directors until the finalisation of the case in which one of the companies is contesting the decision to strip them of the tender.

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