Police probe Mothae deal

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Lekhetho Ntsukunyane

POLICE Commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa has requested Commissioner of Mines Tšeliso Ntabe to furnish him with information on the Mothae Diamond Mine deal, amid allegations of flouting of bidding procedures.

Commissioner Letsoepa’s request is a follow up to a letter he issued to the ministry on 24 June 2016 asking for “all the processes and documents” relating to the awarding of the mining contract to one of the initially shortlisted bidders, Sputnik.

This was after Morafe Group Limited, which claims to be affiliated with the other shortlisted firm, Trans Hex Ltd, lodged a complaint on 9 June 2016 over the Mothae bidding procedures and demanded an investigation.

The two firms have since lost out to Australian-listed Lucapa Diamonds Company, which won the contract after the resubmission of bids.

Commissioner Letsoepa made the latest request on 1 February 2017 – three days after Mining Minister Lebohang Thotanyana announced the awarding of the tender to Lucapa.

The request to Commissioner Ntabe was made in a savingram titled “Request for provision of information into the Mothae Diamond Mine deal”, part of which reads: “Reference is made to the letter submitted to your office on 24 June 2016 in relation to the above mentioned matter. “Kindly note that the office of the Commissioner of Police has not yet received anything with regard to the request.”

For its part, Morafe Group Limited’s complaint was addressed to acting Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police (SACP) – Criminal Intelligence Services (CIS) Seabata Tutuoane and penned by its Director Mohapi Khofu.

In the complaint, Mr Khofu had accused Mr Thotanyana of acting beyond his powers by changing the recommendation from the Mining Board for Trans Hex to be the preferred bidder and instead opting for Sputnik.

“The minister said he was helping the Mining Board to do its job. And over and above that, he was doing the board a favour to include them in this process,” Mr Khofu said.

“He mentioned that he had the powers to carry out an evaluation of tenders in the ministry. (I have) a couple of questions for the honourable minister that I would request the police to help with; what procedures did the minister use to evaluate tenders? What powers is the minister referring to? Which procurement policy and Act is the minister referring to?”

Mr Khofu wrote a follow-up complaint to SACP Tutuoane 3 February 2017 partly noting: “I did send a letter to your office dated 9 June 2016 regarding the subject matter. I am now aware that in the year 2017, the minister has continued with the project regardless of the police investigations and has now awarded the contract or mining rights to an Australian company called Lucapa Diamonds.

“These actions of the honourable Minister of Mining are more shocking, as the said company never submitted an Expression of Interest (EOI) for acquisition of Mothae Diamond Mine. Nonetheless, it’s surprising that they tendered for the project without EOI. This is evident that the minister has keen interest in the Mothae Diamond Mine and continues to violate the Mining Act and the laws of this country. I therefore humbly request your respected office to investigate this matter further and thoroughly. Please be aware that our legal team will be approaching the courts of law for an interdict into this matter.”

Mr Thotanyana has since dismissed Morafe Group Limited’s claims, saying it did not have any links with Trans Hex, hence no right to complain on the latter’s behalf.

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