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M700 million needed for airport facelift

Bereng Mpaki

An estimated M700million is needed towards refurbishment of the Moshoeshoe I International Airport (MIA), Public Works and Transport Minister, Matjato Moteane has revealed.

Moteane said his office was awaiting LTE Consultancy final report, which would give a clearer picture of the cost of the project.

LTE consulting won a controversial M33 million tender to oversee the facelift of the rundown Moshoeshoe I International Airport in June 2021.

When appointed in office, Moteane said top of his priority tasks is the revamp of the airport.

Moteane who recently toured the airport said the establishment was not budgeted for in the current fiscal budget, therefore, the current administration would have to source the necessary funding through international partners.

He noted that the airport rehabilitation has been delayed from as far back as 2014.

He revealed that the country through the ministry of public works and transport in 2014 engaged a ICT consultant to oversee the refurbishment of the airport following a damning report by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

ICAO threated to shut down the operations of the airport but the ministry of public works and transport reacted in time and procured consultancy work.

In 2018 a M2, 8 million tender was controversially awarded to a Chinese-owned construction company, Chun Ye (Pty) Ltd, to refurbish the VIP and VVIP lounges at the airport.

Chun Ye was awarded the tender in May 2018, through a selective tendering process by the Ministry of Public Works, and the firm worked on the facelift from 11 June to 14 July 2018.

In 2020, ICAO released another report with the same threat of closure. The Thabane government in response to ICAO awarded a M500 million tender to Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) tender to refurbish the airport, but the works never happened.

“Refurbishing the airport is one of the top priorities for this government,” Moteane said.

“The state of the airport has been unacceptable for a long time now, and this cannot continue anymore.

“We have established that the funds needed to refurbish the airport could be over M700 million. The government has to raise this money because there is no such provision in the current budget,” the minister said.

Towards this end, Moteane said the government would soon initiate necessary steps towards finding funds through engagement with the ministry of finance.

He said they plan to go back to those who have shown interest in financing the project at first, but was quick to note that they would ensure they get into financial deals that would be worthwhile to Basotho.

“We will not only look at low interest rates, but a loan that would also have a grant embedded to benefit Basotho,” he said.

On what he found at the airport during his tour, Moteane was shocked at the deplorable state of the airport, which was built in 1986 to 1987. 

“The situation that greeted me there was shocking to say the least. The airport is desolate in all aspects. Parts of it have leaky roofing, air conditioning systems is not functional, and the working area for the civil aviation stuff is in bad condition.”

“There are also challenges with water and electricity supply connections. The situation is critical, and it is an urgent project that needs immediate attention,” he stressed.

Moteane noted they were also aware of the ICAO’s immediate concerns, which had threatened to close down the airport due to its poor state of disrepair.

“We have seen the reports from international aviation body, which indicated that it was difficult to land and take off at night at the airport due to its poor runway lighting.”

He said he was not surprised that the airport was in a poor condition as it had been neglected since its construction in 1986.

“When I assumed office, I learned that there were previous plans to rehabilitate the airport by past governments.

“In 2014, the ministry of public works and transport commissioned a consultant (ICT) to conduct a study towards identifying the scope of work needed towards the refurbishment as well as the estimated budget.

“That compiled report included the design of the necessary refurbishment works.

“We are currently familiarising ourselves with the report findings.”

Moteane revealed that following the division of transport ministry from the public works ministry, a separate consultant, LTE Consulting, was contracted in June 2021 to assess the status of the airport and report on the works that needs to be done as well as estimated infrastructural budget of the actual revamp.

 “We are currently awaiting a full report from (LTE) consultant on the study. We currently have two preliminary reports from the same consultant. Once the final report is available, we will study it together with the 2014 report to chart a way forward.”

The M700 million refurbishment Moteane said would not include demolishing the existing airport structure, as it still needs to be used during the rehabilitation process.

“We do not anticipate tearing down the entire structure to refurbish it. It will be possible to continue using the airport while the refurbishment works continue.”

Moteane said the refurbishment project is expected to take 36 months from the time the government secures funding and awards the tender.

He revealed that to honour ICAO’s concerns, the ministry has already procured some items including runway lighting.

“Things that needed attention to keep the airport operations have already been procured by the ministry, while the big job of refurbishing the airport awaits funding.”

The Future of LTE

The minister noted that the contract LTE Consulting has with government is similar to that of ICT which was procured in 2014, however, noted that his office would first have to wait for the final report from the consultant before a decision is made.

He indicated that the government previously engaged ACSA to rehabilitate the airport but, “…I found that engagement dormant.”

“The only contract the government has is that of project management where the consultant would oversee the rehabilitation work on behalf of the government.

“With the existing contract with LTE, it’s too soon to say what will happen. I am still learning the contract, its references and all other dynamics and in due cause an announcement will be made on how we move forward,” the minister said.

He noted that while the government is looking at which doors to knock on when looking for funding, and progress has been made, “…we will then take this issue of the LTE consultancy to cabinet to decide on, but that process, when money has been secured, will not prevent the progress of the airport refurbishment.”

“I have to emphasise that public works had already done a similar job to this one that is being done by LTE Consulting. Our decision therefore will be based on putting the two different reports together.

“We will not continue with fruitless expenditure exercise or even when we assess the contract, and realise its terms of reference will not yield desired results,” the minister stressed.

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