It’s never too late to rectify this wrong

THE decision by the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) Lesotho to cancel the evaluation of a tender to select a service provider for national identity cards for Basotho is highly commendable.

In a country which has become a byword for corruption and graft, the MCA decision provides some salutary lessons for mainly state bureaucrats in this country who have no regard for transparency and fairness when dealing with the public purse but are all too consumed in lining their pockets at whatever costs.

But don’t hold your breath. There will probably be no lessons learnt.

Witness how officials at the Ministry of Home Affairs are all too determined to shamelessly proceed with the awarding of a related tender for electronic passports (e-passports) without floating an open tender.

It should be noted that by the time the MCA announced the decision to cancel the evaluation of the ID tender last week citing some irregularities in the process, a lengthy and fairly exhaustive process leading to the short-listing of 10 bidders had already been followed.

But at the whiff of the slightest signal of wrongdoing, the process was halted and is now being started afresh. That’s how things ought to be.

But again, we should not hold our breadth that this whole thing is a signal of writing the wrongs in our notoriously corrupt government departments.

MCA Lesotho is a product of the Millenium Challenge Corporation, a vehicle through which  the American government funds many poor countries. Because of the involvement of the American taxpayer, there is no room for any corrupt shenanigans in all MCA-driven processes.

Let’s hope the MCA decision to re-start this process will lead to the selection of a competent bidder who will administer the project in the national interest.

The greatest irony is that the Ministry of Home Affairs, which will ultimately administer both the ID and e-passports project, is not prodded by the MCA decision to correct its intrinsically rotten moves on the e-passports project.

Here we have one project (IDs) to be administered by the same ministry being subjected to a thorough, exhaustive and transparent process.

Yet another (e-passports) is awarded in the alleys of darkness through an opaque, brazenly illegitimate process.

Self serving interpretations of regulations that allow selective tendering are proffered to defend the completely indefensible process involving the latter project. Again no prizes for guessing.

The one involves a foreign donor bankrolled by a government that respects the rules of fair play and the public purse. The other one is administered by our very own.

What a shame.

We can only hope that one day in future, through any miracle of the Almighty or otherwise, the long arm of the law catches up with those who are determined to award a major national project under a veil of secrecy.

As this nation now knows, their process has already excluded a number of heavyweight international companies with vast experience in the e-passport business.

Unlike in the ID process, the cries of those excluded in the e-passports project have fallen on deaf ideas. While it’s never too late to rectify any wrongs, don’t hold your breath.

We are Basotho. We do things our way.

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