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Police boss under probe

by Lesotho Times

MASERU — Police Commissioner ’Malejaka Letooane (pictured) is under investigation over a tender controversially awarded to an American firm to supply police uniforms two years ago.

The United States-based firm was initially disqualified from the tender process because it had failed to meet the stringent requirements.

The Lesotho Times can reveal that the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) is investigating Letooane’s role in awarding the controversial M24 million tender to Ferrini USA Inc in 2008.

It is suspected that Letooane could have used her position as police commissioner to ensure Ferrini USA Inc won the tender even though its tender submission had been disqualified.

Highly placed sources last night told this paper that investigations into the police commissioner’s involvement “were at an advanced stage”. 

Yesterday afternoon, the police source said, officials from the DCEO went to Letooane’s office at the police headquarters in Maseru to collect documents they believe could help in the investigations.

The source said Letooane was on leave but the anti-corruption officials still entered her office and ransacked it in their search for evidence.

The investigations started early last year following complaints by some companies that had lost out on the multi-million maloti tender.

DCEO spokesperson, Litelu Ramokhoro, refused to comment specifically on Letooane’s case but said they were investigating several corruption cases involving senior police officers.

“I am not in a position to single out a specific case that is currently being investigated,” Ramokhoro said.

Police spokesperson Masupha Masupha said he was unable to get hold of his officers who worked directly with Letooane to verify the information that she was under investigation. 

Letooane together with former home affairs principal secretary, Lefa Mokotjo, are alleged to have tampered with the tender process in favour of Ferrini USA Inc.

Apparently Ferrini USA Inc’s tender had been initially disqualified because the company did not have tax clearance certificates from the Lesotho Revenue Authority. 

The company also did not have a trader’s licence.

It had also not submitted samples of the uniform it wanted to supply.  

During the tender opening on July 23, 2008 Ferrini USA Inc was disqualified.

Eight local companies had complied with the stipulated requirements.

On July 31, 2008 the eight companies that had submitted all the requirements were invited to a debriefing session where they were told that they had all failed to make the grade to supply the uniforms.

They were however later told that a decision had been made that they should re-enter the tender process.

But while they were waiting for the procurement unit to call for a re-tender they learnt that Ferrini USA Inc had already been awarded the tender.

That irked Smally Trading Company and Noko Enterprises, two of the companies that had tendered to supply the uniforms.

Smally and Noko wanted their tender documents re-evaluated by the tender panel but that request was never granted. 

The two companies filed an application in the High Court asking the court to declare the transaction Letooane and Mokotjo authorised between the police and Ferrini USA Inc unlawful.

Smally’s managing director, Leonia Mosothoane, told the court in papers that they complained to the Procurement Policy and Advice Division (PPAD), which also said the tender process, had to be restarted.

The PPAD wrote to the home affairs ministry and the police’s procurement unit instructing that the tender process had to be restarted but their instructions were ignored. 

Instead the procurement unit and the ministry replied saying Ferrini USA Inc had been identified as the supplier.

The two companies also met the deputy principal secretary whose name could not be immediately verified and Mokotjo in two separate meetings to complain about the issue but nothing was done.

Mosothoane told the court that she discovered that the head of the procurement unit requested Letooane to purchase the uniforms through what was termed “selective tendering”.

This, she said, was done after Ferrini USA Inc had been disqualified in the preliminary stages of the tendering process. 

She said she also discovered that Ferrini’s managing director wrote to Letooane who immediately released purchase order number D257853 to supply the uniforms.

Sources say the DCEO wants to know if Letooane illegally benefited from the tender.

They also want to know why Letooane requested Mokotjo to arrange for a down payment of 35 percent of the total price, an arrangement that was never mentioned in the tender documents.

Mosothoane told the court that what Mokotjo and Letooane did reflected “a tragic saga and cancer of corruption that I had never seen before”.

“It becomes intriguing and manifestly abhorrable because it has been committed by police officers, the very people we the citizenry look upon when criminal offences are committed against us,” Mosothoane said.

Yesterday High Court judge Justice Nthomeng Majara ruled that Smally and Noko had been prejudiced in the controversial tender process.

The judge said the tender procedures appear to have been tampered with.

Justice Majara’s judgment will however not change much because Ferrini USA Inc has since supplied the uniforms.

Smally’s lawyer, Qhalehang Letsika, said he was planning to claim damages against the police and the home affairs ministry.

Mosothoane also approached the DCEO which started investigating after months of dithering.

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