FINANCE Minister Dr Mamphono Khaketla has extended South African firm Bidvest Car Rental’s contract to provide vehicles to the government after one of the companies that failed to qualify for the tender lodged a complaint alleging irregularities in the process.
Bidvest has been providing the service since taking over from Avis Lesotho on 1 October 2015 with its contract scheduled to end on 31 March 2016. However, the announcement of the winner of the multimillion-maloti five-year tender was shelved after Chebelopele Fleetdata Consortium claimed the bidding process failed to meet the mandatory requirements.
In a letter addressed to the Procurement Manager in the Ministry of Finance, Chebelopele demands the suspension of the tender process while the firm “explores dispute resolution mechanisms”.
Dated 7 April 2016, the letter argues that the three companies shortlisted for the tender (names withheld) did not meet the requirements relating to financial statements for three years and did not have the requisite experience to carry out the tender.
Chebelopele also alleges the bids for the shortlisted companies were not opened publicly by a tender panel.
“This conduct contravened regulation 27 (3) (of the Public Procurement Regulation of 2007) in that the tender panel failed to announce and make a relevant record of the tenderers’ names, the tenderers’ prices, alternative tender prices if allowed end to indicate whether the tender security and other mandatory documents required by the invitation to tender had been submitted or not,” reads the letter.
It goes on to allege that the tender processes was handled by principal secretaries with the decisions relating to the award of the tender being made by cabinet.
“We submit with respect that this approach was highly irregular because Regulation 3 clearly stipulates bodies which must constitute the procurement unit when carrying out public procurement,” states the letter.
“It is significant to point out that the cabinet is not one such body. This regulation must be read with regulation 50 (1) which requires the Chief Accounting Officer to establish a tender panel with functions set out in regulation 50 (3).”
Contacted for comment, Ministry of Finance spokesperson, Litemoso Thatho said the extension was made by Dr Khaketla on 1 April 2016 after the tendering process took longer than expected.
She confirmed receipt of the letter from Chebelopele, saying officials from the ministry were working on addressing the complaint.
On how much the government would pay for the fleet tender, Ms Thatho said: “It is privileged information that we cannot share without the authorisation of the company involved in the contract.
“All we can confirm is that Bidvest is contracted to provide us with between 1 000 and 1 200 vehicles.”