Lesotho Times

National Assembly staffers grilled over losses

Pascalinah Kabi

SENIOR National Assembly staffers including the Clerk, Fine Maema, have admitted to massive rot at the institution which has seen it lose more than M2 million paid out to different companies for services which were not fully rendered.

Mr Maema conceded that there were malpractices at the National Assembly during a recent hearing into the use of public funds by the institution which was conducted by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

It also emerged that an undisclosed number of legislators were at some point paid double salaries before being forced to refund the National Assembly in instalments over three months.

The National Assembly blamed the error on its software application which it used to process the legislators’ salaries.

The PAC demanded to know why the National Assembly made a full payment of M2 million to Engidata, a local company that was engaged in March 2014 for the upgrading of digital conference systems at the parliament.

The company had not completed the job at the time it was paid M1 999 040, 78 and four years later, the job has still not been completed.

Engidata was awarded a M1, 9 million tender to upgrade the systems in 2014 and part of the money which was used to pay the company (M613 700, 37) was sourced from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The UNDP contributed the money as part of efforts to help the National Assembly to change its recording systems from the analogue to the digital platform.

The payments were processed after the Senior Hansard Editor, Nthethe Kori, and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Manager, Setho Sebitia, signed a certification of completion, stating that Engidata had “successfully completed” the job even if it had not done so.

Mr Sebitia admitted to the PAC that Engidata was fully paid before the job was completed. He further said that the remaining tasks included the “installation of services” to assist parliament to digitally record all its proceedings.

“Currently we are using tapes to record, we play them with analogue systems and transcribe into written documents,” Mr Sebitia said, adding, “the new system was meant to ensure that everything would be done digitally”.

“It is true that we didn’t achieve the primary objective of the (digitalisation) project and under normal circumstances the company should have never been fully paid the tender amount without completing the job.”

Mr Sebitia further said that Engidata had promised to complete the job on 21 March 2014 but it had failed to live up to its promises four years down the line.

He however, refused to take the blame for the payment and Engidata’s failure to complete the job, saying his was only an oversight role and he was not one of the people managed the project or processed the payments.

He told the PAC that he wrote a report stating that Engidata did not completed its task. He also said that he had misunderstood the certification of completion that he co-signed with Mr Kori.

Financial Controller Lereko Maine said the government lost M440 000 which was the amount paid out for the work which was not carried out by Engidata.

PAC chairperson, Selibe Mochoboroane, replied by telling Mr Maine that in essence the government lost the entire M2 million because the primary objective of the project had not been achieved.

“Even today we are still using the analogue system, not the digital one as it was intended. That means we have lost the whole tender money because we are still using the analogue system and we can call this (signing certification of completion) fraudulent misrepresentation.

“The Deputy Clerk (Libuseng Majoro) said these two people (Kori and Sebitia) issued an appraisal report and signed a certification of completion and in terms of the law, this is fraudulent misrepresentation. Failing to achieve the purpose of the project means that we lost the whole money spent on this project and not part of it as you want to put it,” Mr Mochoboroane said.

Mr Mochoboroane then instructed Adv Maema to institute measures to ensure that the government recovered the M2 million it lost to Engidata due to “fraudulent misrepresentation” by Messrs Kori and Sebitia.

On his part, Mr Kori said it was not correct to say that the government had lost all the money for the project because part of the job was effectively done by Engidata.

“Part of the job was successfully carried out. The payments were processed and Engidata promised that they would have completed the job by 21 March 2014 but that never happened,” Mr Kori said, adding that part of the job that remained uncompleted included training legislators and staff members on the proper use of the digital conference system.

Adv Maema said he had since written to the office of the Attorney General seeking advice on how to proceed with Engidata as the company was no longer forthcoming as to when it would fully deliver.

“We will now take legal action and I concede that it is wrong to pay people before jobs are completed. There is no doubt that there has been a breach of contract (by Engidata),” Adv Maema said.

In another development, the National Assembly lost M70 110 to a local company – Cave Office Suppliers – which was awarded a tender to supply the institution with five laptops and two printers.

Cave Office Suppliers were paid the full amount 19 May 2015, 11 days after it was awarded the tender. The full payment was effected before the five laptops and printers were delivered in May 2015. The laptops were however returned to the supplier as they did not meet the tender specifications.


Lesotho Times

Lesotho's widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa.

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