MASERU — The Thaba-Tseka business community is up in arms against the district administrator over allocation of contracts to traders from other districts.
The business people marched to the DA’s office last month wanting him to call for a meeting between them and the district government department heads to explain why they were not getting tenders.
The district business community claim that they do not know the procedures to follow in order to acquire contracts from the government at district level.
They say traders from other districts win tenders to supply goods in Thaba-Tseka.
A transport operator in Thaba-Tseka told the Lesotho Times in an interview that the government at the district level has been awarding business contracts to fleet owners from other districts.
Ratlali Tlali said he understood that local business opportunities should be left to local enterprises but to his dismay he observed traders from other districts supplying transport services to Thaba-Tseka government departments.
Tlali said he, together with other transport operators, objected to that.
“Most of us do not understand the procedure to tender for government business and we are always left out,” Tlali said.
“I am of the understanding that opportunities for small businesses with the government in Thaba-Tseka should be given first preference,” he said.
“We understand that we may not have muscles to supply certain goods to government because we are financially incapacitated but where we have the capacity we should be given the first preference,” he said.
The district business community wrote to the district administrator, Sello Lenkoane, asking him to intervene but he did not.
The business community wanted Lenkoane to call all the district government department heads to a meeting to explain to them how to acquire contracts to supply the government with goods.
The Lesotho Times is in possession of the letter written to the DA.
In their letter dated May 18, the traders invited the DA to bring the department director to explain to them the role played by their respective procurement units in the development of the district’s businesses.
“What are the roles played by the Thaba-Tseka traders, procurement units and the tender board?” they asked in the letter.
“What are the roles played by the procurement unit and the tender board in Thaba-Tseka businesses?”
The Thaba-Tseka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TCCI) secretary told the Lesotho Times that Lenkoane never responded to their letters and he failed to organise the meeting with government departmental heads.
’Maseala Seala said the DA once told her that he was not interested in arguments between the business people and civil servants.
“We do not have his official reply in writing and it is difficult to give evidence of his verbal response,” Seala said.
“The DA is not interested in us and we do not know what to do about the situation,” she said.
“He is the one responsible for all government departments in the district and we were right to approach him seeking intervention.”
When Lenkoane did not respond the traders wrote to the head of the Public Procurement Advisory Division (PPAD) in the district.
The PPAD has the responsibility to develop public procurement legislation and initiate proposals for the adoption of further acts and best practices.
It also has a special help desk dealing with enquiries from the procurement unit, the business community and other individuals.
PPAD has the legal mandate to set up an appeals panel to deal with complaints from government suppliers.
“We have filled forms and submitted them to the procurement unit but up until now there has been no reply,” reads the letter in part.
“We do not know whether we have filled them correctly or not.
“We are aware of the way in which the Thaba-Tseka procurement unit clash with the Procurement Regulations 2007 legal notice 1 of 2007.”
“We need to be told the correct procedure.”
“We asked for help from the DA and the Thaba-Tseka head of departments without success and we are banking on you to help.”
Traders also say they need a thorough explanation of a newly introduced government financial management system called Integrated Financial Management System (IFMIS).
They wanted to know how they were interlinked with the district procurement unit and how their being contracted by the government has any link with the IFMIS.
IFMIS is a system meant to help government auditors to track the financial system users, daily transactions and fraudulent exchange of passwords.
It is an application that combines budget preparation, execution, accounting, financial management and reporting activities on a single integrated platform.
Since the introduction of IFMIS in April this year payment of many business people who supplied the government with goods and services has been delayed and the excuse has always been IFMIS is not well understood.
Towards the end of June the Thaba-Tseka business community marched to the DA’s office petitioning him to attend to their grievances.
Lenkoane was absent from his office and their letter of grievances was received by his deputy.
Approached for comment, Lenkoane denied categorically that he ignored correspondence from the Thaba-Tseka business community.
Lenkoane said the traders were impatient as they set about marching against him while he was busy trying to solve their problems.
“They had asked me to call a meeting between them and the departmental heads of government and I requested them to clarify the agenda so that those to be called could bring the relevant information,” Lenkoane said.
“Whilst I was waiting for them to give me a clear agenda I received information that they were going to march against me,” he said.
“There is no way I can turn my back against them because they are our business people and I have the responsibility to serve them.”
Lenkoane said a meeting will be held next week to address their grievances.