Keiso Mohloboli and Letuka Chafotsa
Communications, Science and Technology ministry Principal Secretary (PS) Nonkululeko Zaly has been accused of flouting procurement procedures when she acquired Information Communication Technology (ICT) equipment worth M15 million.
The equipment was for the upgrading of government’s entire computer network and delivered to the ministry on 17 January this year.
However, Ms Zaly—who was fired in November 2013 for alleged insubordination but reinstated in October last year following a protracted legal battle—is being accused by her predecessor, Tšeliso Khomari, of violating government’s tender regulations in the purchase.
Mr Khomari was appointed Communications PS when Ms Zaly was sacked following several clashes with then Communications, Science and Technology minister Tšeliso Mokhosi. But after the Constitutional Court ordered Ms Zaly’s reinstatement, Mr Khomari was redeployed to the Ministry of Public Service, which he refuses to accept, leading to bad blood between the two.
In a letter to the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) Director General, Borotho Matsoso, Mr Khomari accuses Ms Zaly of breaking the law when she purchased the equipment.
The letter, dated 4 February 2015 and copied to the Police Commissioner and Finance Ministry PS Khosi Letsie, reads in part: “This is to inform you that the Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology has just received ICT-related equipment worth in excess of R15 million.
“Up to date (sic), our investigations have revealed that this equipment has been purchased entirely outside standing procurement regulations and procedures.
“Your authority and expert intervention would help establish person(s) behind this malpractice.”
But before Mr Khomari’s correspondence, Mr Letsie had already started probing how Ms Zaly procured the equipment. In a letter dated 30 January 2015 and addressed to “PS Communications”, Mr Letsie had requested the following information:
- Evidence that Government procurement procedures were followed such as invitation of tenders;
- List of companies that tendered for the supply of the required equipment;
- Names of the evaluation team members and tender panel;
- Report of the evaluation team;
- Approval of the tender panel and
- Selection criteria.
However, in an interview with the Lesotho Times yesterday, Ms Zaly said she did not respond to Mr Letsie’s letter, but would not give reasons why.
“First of all, I am the PS here and any accusation by Khomari cannot be taken seriously especially if he makes it claiming that he is the Communications PS,” Ms Zaly said.
Ms Zaly then accused ICT Director-General Lebusa Letlotlo of being behind the “plot” to tarnish her image through the tender-fraud allegations.
Ms Zaly further said Mr Letlotlo was being used by the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and fired Communications Minister Selibe Mochoboroane, in their “political battles”.
She said government’s centralised data system revamping and upgrading project was tendered and awarded to a South African and local firm EOH and Engidata respectively on 23 April 2014.
“The project was supposed to take six months but due to deliberate delays caused by Mr Letlotlo, the system was never upgraded and the contract has now stretched to over a year now since he had failed to do his job.
“These people delayed the completion of the project only because they were on a mission to ensure Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing’s court case is not registered in the data system,” Ms Zaly said.
She added the project depended on the upgrade of the Storage Area Network (SAN) to remain operational hence her decision to urgently deal with the matter. Ms Zaly also said the communications ministry had received complaints from other government departments following their inability to retrieve and access the recorded information.
On his part, Mr Letlotlo said his department had drawn a proposed budget of M29 300 000 million to the Ministry of Finance, which was still awaiting approval—only to discover that Ms Zaly had already acquired the SAN on 1 December 2014 worth M16 692 032, which was delivered to the ministry on 17 January 2015.
“Ms Zaly instructed the project coordinator to receive the SAN and backup device and I advised the coordinator to refrain from interacting with the contractors since my office was not aware of any arrangement pertaining to the procurement of such equipment,” Mr Letlotlo said.
Mr Letlotlo said he then reported the suspected fraud to Mr Mochoboroane and Mr Khomari for legal measures to be taken and for the project to continue.
“Ms Zaly also surprised me when she instructed Engidata and EOH not to communicate with the ICT department and promised them that the payment for their equipment would be made after the 28 February 2015 elections,” he said, adding his office was not sure if Ms Zaly was aware of the specifications the system required when she purchased the equipment.
Mr Letlotlo also accused Ms Zaly of instructing the ministry’s E-government Infrastructure project coordinator to accept the equipment without following due process. He said the project coordinator alerted her of the anomaly, to which Ms Zaly had allegedly warned him “never to resist her instructions ever again”.
Mr Khomari confirmed writing to the police, DCEO and Ministry of Finance about Ms Zaly’s “suspected fraud”.
“We are two PSs here but anything that is financial within the ministry is my responsibility,” Mr Khomari said.
“After all, only my signature is considered authentic and lawful. Ms Zaly was on the wrong side of the law by purchasing that equipment without following due process and we are also conducting internal investigations on the matter.”
Meanwhile, Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka yesterday said the Communications PS was Ms Zaly and not Mr Khomari. Mr Mphaka added Mr Khomari was re-deployed to the Ministry of Public Service although he had refused to accept his placement.
“Consider all the reports, and signed documents by Mr Khomari as a nullity because they have no authority,” Mr Mphaka said.
“Mr Khomari doesn’t represent any department in the Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology.
“I might not know the specific details concerning the procurement of the equipment but Mr Khomari’s accusations won’t be considered because he doesn’t have any authority to represent the ministry.”