Yan Xie-linked company challenges airport tender award  

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Pascalinah Kabi

A joint venture alleged to be fronting for controversial businessman, Yan Xie, has successfully challenged the Ministry of Transport’s decision to award a Moshoeshoe I International Airport supervision tender to South African company, LTE Construction.

The WSSL Joint Venture lost out in June this year when the tender to provide consultancy services and supervise whichever company will be selected to refurbish the country’s only international airport as awarded to LTE.

The South African company had been chosen from a list of six companies, including WSSL, which had been invited to submit their bids through a selective tendering process by the transport ministry. It is not clear which other companies had been invited to bid.

Disgruntled with the outcome, WSSL successfully appealed to the Ministry of Finance’s Public Procurement Advisory Division (PPAD) to order the transport ministry to redo the tendering process.

WSSL alleged that it had been treated unfairly as it had not even been allowed to see the evaluation report which would have shown where it fell short in its bid.

The transport ministry has also been ordered to conduct an open tender process which will allow any company to bid for the work.

The PPAD communicated its decision to the Ministry of Transport in a 10 September 2021 letter to the ministry’s principal secretary, Maile Masoebe.

The letter indicates that the WSSL Joint Venture complained that the Ministry of Transport did not conduct the procurement processes in a transparent manner and thus violated the 2007 Public Procurement Regulations.

It further says that the WSSL Joint Venture indicated that its request for the evaluation report from the Ministry of Transport during a debriefing session was denied and that it found this to be an unfair practice.

“WSSL JV passed the technical evaluation part as announced by the Ministry of Transport but WSSL JV was denied access to the said technical evaluation report including information on the scoring of others just before the financial proposals could be opened and evaluated,” PPAD director, Likotsi Leseli, states in his letter to the transport ministry.

Mr Leseli noted that the transport ministry had failed to follow procurement regulations which provided for the debriefing of companies after a tender had been awarded. He said this would “inform unsuccessful bidders about their weaknesses, so that in a forthcoming tender, they do not fall in the same trap”.

He said during the “cooling period” after the tender award, losing bidders had a right to lodge objections to the awarding of the tender.

On the basis of the alleged violations of the procurement regulations, the PPAD had resolved to nullify the award of the tender to LTE and order the process to be redone, Mr Leseli said.

“The PPAD finds the matter at hand being caused by lack of appreciation of the public procurement rules, regulations and procedures, including the best public procurement practices. Therefore, the Ministry of Transport is advised to re-tender by using the default method of public procurement, which is open competitive tendering,” Mr Leseli states in his letter.

Former Minister of Law and Justice, Mophatho Monyake, who is one of WSSL’s partners, said the joint venture had complained to the PPAD after losing out.

“The matter was heard by the PPAD as per the procurement procedure and the PPAD ruled that the project be retendered,” said Mr Monyake who served in the first government of former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane which lasted from 2012 to 2015.

He however, said he did not have a mandate from the joint venture partners to discuss any other issues including the ownership structure of the companies.

However, some sources said the controversial Mr Xie was one of the major partners in the joint venture.

Also known as John, the controversial businessman has been accused by the current government and many others of seeking to corruptly advance his personal business interests.

He is said to have fled the country early last year for Australia to avoid possible prosecution for corruption in connection with various tenders he was awarded by previous governments especially the Thomas Thabane administration which lasted from June 2017 until 20 May 2020.

He however, denies fleeing and insists he will return to the country someday.

Mr Xie was not reachable for comment as his mobile phone rang unanswered yesterday. He did not respond to messages sent to him.

However, the sources insist that he is using the joint venture as a front to continue securing lucrative government tenders “because he knows that he will not get any jobs if he openly bids for them”.

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