Govt ordered to disclose how airport tender was awarded

0

Mohalenyane Phakela

DETAILS of the murky process surrounding the government’s awarding of the M33 million tender for the upgrading of Moshoeshoe I International Airport to a liquidated South African company will soon be revealed.

This after the commercial division of the High Court ordered the Ministry of Transport to disclose the record of all the proceedings which led to the award of the tender to South Africa’s LTE Consulting.

Judge Moroke Mokhesi made the order during the weekend hearing of an application by an association of local construction and mining companies for the nullification of the tender award to LTE.

Justice Mokhesi ordered that the records be availed within seven days of receipt of his Friday ruling.

Calling itself the Civil Mining and Building Constructors, the association was last Wednesday joined in the application by a local consultancy, PM Aviation Consultancy. PM Aviation was one of the four companies which lost the airport tender to LTE Consulting in June 2021.

Transport Minister Tšoeu Mokeretla, LTE Consulting and Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa are the first to third respondents respectively in the application.

In his Friday ruling, Justice Mokhesi said, “The first respondent (Mokeretla) is ordered to dispatch the record of the entire procurement cycle in the form of pre-posting of the proposed tendering documents, decision on selective tendering and conditions for participating in the bidding.

“The first respondent (Mokeretla) is ordered to dispatch the record of the deadline for submission of tenders, project specifications, evaluation and award, contract management, order and payment deliberations of all the meetings which ensued between the second (LTE) and the officials of the first respondent, documents incidental and connected with the decision to commission feasibility study to this court within seven days after service of this order,” Justice Mokhesi ruled.

LTE Consulting is owned by controversial South African businessman, Thulani Majola, who is said to enjoy cordial relations with politicians in both the Lesotho and South African governments.

In June 2021 the transport ministry awarded controversial South African businessman Thulani Majola’s LTE Consulting a M38 million contract to oversee the refurbishment of Lesotho’s dilapidated airport as the Mountain Kingdom races against time to meet International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)’s standards, following the latter’s threats to shut it down.

But already on 18 March 2021, a provisional liquidation application had been launched by a creditor of LTE Consulting in the Johannesburg High Court. The application was granted on 9 June 2021, a day before unsuccessful bidders were informed the contract had been awarded to LTE Consulting.

South Africa’s famed AmaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism published a story about Mr Majola’s alleged use of his political connections in Lesotho to land the multi-million maloti tender.

The article also stated that the airport tender was awarded to LTE four months after its liquidation.

The liquidation, the article stated, was as a result of LTE being accused of failing to honour a M23 million debt to its South African sub-contractor, Kontinental Engineering Consulting, for a bus station construction project for the City of Ekurhuleni in 2020.

LTE had initially entered into talks regarding a settlement with Kontinental after the latter had filed a liquidation application in the Johannesburg High Court.

However, the parties failed to reach an agreement and Kontinental went back to court, arguing that LTE had paid M14 million but still owed M8, 9 million. This led to the eventual liquidation of LTE, according to AmaBhungane. A final liquidation order was then issued on 24 February 2022.

This has prompted the conglomerate and PM Aviation to launch their application challenging the tender award to LTE Consulting.

In their court papers filed last Wednesday, the applicants accuse Mr Mokeretla of having a personal interest in LTE which they must be investigated.

“The association learnt with dismay that the first respondent (Mokeretla) had awarded a contract to a liquidated foreign company through newspapers,” the association’s secretary general, Mohalenyane Masasa, states in his founding affidavit.

“We then conducted private investigations around this scandal and we established that the first respondent is having a special interest in the transactions of the second respondent (LTE) and yet deliberately refrains from the disclosure of that interest in order to deceive and induce the state to act to its prejudice…

“It suffices to indicate that the liquidation proceedings against second respondent were widely circulated in the print media and radio stations locally and in South Africa. It cannot be said that first respondent and his officials were not aware that the second respondent was not eligible to tender for the consultancy work. On the other hand, the directors of the second respondent had a duty to disclose to the officials of the first respondent that they were faced with liquidation proceedings and to recount in detail the facts that have given rise to the liquidation proceedings. It is a matter of procedure…

“The defence staged for the decision to allocate state resources to a liquidated foreign company might well have been a question of considerable difficulty to justify. It therefore appears to me that that the Ministry knew that the second respondent was under liquidation and that the awareness and appreciation of the existence of the duty to disqualify it from tendering was sacrificed on the altar of their convenience. To put it in another way, the non-disclosure of the status of the second respondent at the bidding stage resulted in a misrepresentation which was perpetrated with a fraudulent intent,” Mr Masasa states.

He further alleges that after having corruptly awarded the tender to LTE Consulting, huge amounts of money were paid to the South African company even before it had started work. He accused LTE of presenting fake invoices of expenses it claimed to have incurred in order to justify the payments.

 

 

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.