The truth shall come out at last

AS a well mannered individual who was taught to respect the elderly I cannot directly accuse my elders of lying as that would be too disrespectful.

It is in that context that I will dare not accuse principal secretary of home affairs Retšelisitsoe Khetsi of lying in all his remarks recently about why he opted for a selective tender process to choose a company to produce electronic passports for the kingdom.

Rather I will only accuse Khetsi of being economical with the truth.

That’s rather respectful isn’t it?

I have no fear to make this accusation because the information and evidence at my disposal contradicts the rosy picture Khetsi purports to paint about how he has handled this process. 

When the right time to flash this evidence comes, Basotho will understand why self-serving government bureaucrats always take them for a ride. 

The simple point is that the manner in which this entire passport tender has been handled stinks. Period! 

It’s interesting how Khetsi interprets the regulations on selective tendering to justify his mishandling of this important project.

Isn’t Khetsi’s sudden discovery of the urgent need for e-passports, hence warranting his selective tender process, quite amazing?

For how long have we lived with this passport problem?

Why the sudden rush to fix a problem that we have long known needs to be fixed properly? The point Mr Principal Secretary is that all illegitimate process breeds illegitimate outcomes.

It’s alright to fix a problem. But that has to be done properly.  

Unless the problem is fixed properly, it will never go away.

For you to say you invited the five companies to tender selectively because these are the ones that had first approached you with e-passport proposals is plain illiterate Mr Principal Secretary.

Is a “mere first come first served basis” a justified criteria of inviting selective bids for such a mammoth project?

How about the competent international conglomerates with proven track records in this field who were not among the first to approach you simply because they were not aware of this e-passports project?

Did that automatically disqualify them in your selective process?

True, the law does allow selective tendering in some instances.

But I am amazed at your equally selective interpretation of this law.

The law (Public Procurement Regulations of 2007) categorically state, among other requirements, that in a selective tender process, all companies with the required capacity must be invited to tender. 

Nowhere does it state that only those who approach a ministry first should be invited to tender. 

At some point, if you Mr Khetsi proceed with this process in its current bungled format, you shall have to justify why other more capable companies than the five invited, who wanted to present their cases, were not welcome at your offices.

In the interests of balance and giving credit where it is due, I am impressed by Khetsi’s admission that he was not competent to adjudicate who among the five wins but will leave it to the IT experts.

But this admission raises even more questions than answers.

Is this admission not the very reason why Khetsi should have assembled this team of technical experts first to come up with proposals on how to address our passports problem to suit our own unique needs and then issue a comprehensive public bid process to invite the best?

This is exactly what was done in the ID tender.  Companies that tendered had to collect the ID tender documents in boxes laden on trolleys because of the comprehensive detail involved. At the initial briefing, more than 50 companies showed up.

But after the specs where issued in the comprehensive tender documents, only 10 finally tendered.

The comprehensive nature of the process simply eliminated the chancers.

Because passports are even more important than IDs, since you cannot use IDs for international travel and we have never had the IDs anyway, I am struggling to comprehend why the requirements list issued to the five selected bidders by Khetsi’s ministry was a measly two A4 pages.

Why wasn’t a team of experts assembled to draw up a comprehensive bid document outlining our needs as was done with the IDs?

Perhaps his justification will be that he and his fellow bureaucrats are too technically incompetent that they only invited those in the know to come up with their own proposals.

But isn’t it that the kind of stuff that Banana Republics are made of? 

And if you are so technically incompetent, why be part of the trip to Botswana?

Was this to just accompany the experts who would learn how Botswana had resolved their passport problems?

And why Botswana?

Why not any other country which has experienced known passport problems

like us and resolved them?

Khetsi’s explanation that his visit to Botswana was merely coincidental to the fact one of  the five bidders G & D (from Germany) is doing passports there is not convincing enough.

So will he also pay visits to other countries in which the remaining bidders have done work?

If not so, doesn’t that automatically favour G & D?

You certainly have many questions to answer Mr Principal Secretary. 

Khetsi must go back to the drawing board and start this process afresh.

You may get away with this rot for now but one day it will follow you.

You may also fool some people some time, but take Bob Marley’s wisdom that you cannot fool all people all the time.

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