The Minister of Public Works and Transport, Neo Matjato Moteane, announced on Wednesday that the controversial contract with South African consultancy company, Leseli Technical Engineering (LTE), for the facelift of the Moshoeshoe I International Airport is set to be terminated.
Moteane revealed that the contract, which was budgeted at M33,591,500 and intended to run for four years, was flawed from the beginning.
During the press briefing, Moteane’s statement contradicted what the Ministry’s top officials had previously told the press regarding the contract.
Deputy Principal Secretary, Katiso Ntoane, had strongly denied last year’s media reports that the Ministry was engaged with a liquidated South African company.
To support their stance, Ntoane stated that the organisation of contractors had filed a complaint in the Procurement Policy and Advice Division (PPAD), a department within the Ministry of Finance, over the flawed contract.
However, the case was dismissed, and the contractors escalated the matter to the courts of law, where it is currently pending.
Seeking Assistance to Terminate the Contract
In light of the contract’s flaws and potential corruption, Minister Moteane revealed that they have enlisted the help of the African Legal Support Facility (ALSF) to find a way out of the multi-million Maloti contract.
He emphasised that the chances of a successful project were slim due to the contract’s flawed procurement process.
“This contract was indeed flawed,” Moteane said.
He further shared that the ministry had engaged the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO), Lesotho Mounted Police Services (LMPS), and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to probe the validity of the contract.
The aim is to uncover any instances of prejudicing the country’s interests and bring those responsible to justice.
If any of the ministry officials are found to be involved in the flawed contract, they will face the consequences, according to Moteane. He revealed that the contract had likely been politically influenced, with LTE allegedly sponsoring some political parties leading up to the National Assembly General Elections in October 2022.
Scope and Funding Issues
Another significant concern that prompted him to want to terminate the contract, Moteane said, was the material change in the scope of work.
He said the project was initially planned to cost around M800 million, but the available funds amounted to only M51 million.
This discrepancy meant that LTE would receive a substantial sum without accomplishing the project as intended.
“The LTE contract was M33million but in the budget, we only had M51 million; which was for both the planning, design, and construction, so you can’t pay M33 million just so that you can plan to manage M51 million, the money will all go to LTE not the project,” he said.
Moteane also expressed his doubts about the technical capabilities of the project team proposed by LTE, suggesting that they may not have been suitable for the job.
He clarified that the termination of the LTE contract was part of a broader initiative by the Deputy Prime Minister, Nthomeng Majara, to scrutinise contracts suspected of being flawed or improperly procured.
Frazer Solar and sports facilities under the Ministry of Sports were among the other contracts under investigation.
“To ensure better oversight and adherence to proper procedures in future projects, the Ministry of Finance has engaged the African Legal Support Facility within the African Development Bank,” he said.
He indicated that this legal support will assist government teams in conducting thorough checks to ensure the value for money and the legitimacy of projects moving forward.