Public Works PS rejects Basotho contractors’ bid

KANANELO BOLOETSE

LADYBRAND – MAFETENG - Ministry of Public Works’ Principal Secretary (PS) Mothabathe Hlalele has rejected the Consortium of Lesotho Contractors (CLC)’s demand that the ministry should ensure Basotho contractors participate in the construction of the two big roads which is about to commence.

In a written correspondence to Hlalele on December 7, Mokhele Likate – who is the chairman of the CLC’s board of directors – argued that the ministry of public works publicly announced that provision has been made for Basotho contractors “to participate 30 percent in the construction works” of Mpiti-Sehlabathebe road in Qacha’s Nek and Marakabei-Monontša road in Botha-Bothe, if the tenders for the two projects are awarded to foreign companies.

“CLC is not aware Sir, of an invitation from your ministry extended to Basotho contractors to participate in these projects and construction works are about to begin,” Likate wrote. He added: “Please be humbly reminded that the 100 percent Basotho-owned consortium with 32-member companies is well-placed to take part in the implementation of any major construction project and related works as CLC or by giving capacity support to its members and other Basotho contractors on their own or in any form of grouping in response to the requirements of a particular project.

“As significant stakeholders in the construction industry in the country, CLC deserves an urgent explanation on how the huge construction works of Mpiti-Sehlabathebe and Marakabei-Monontša road projects have been transparently and fairly handled to ensure participation of all Basotho in the economy of their own country.” Likate’s letter followed a leaked email which suggested that the Roads Directorate “is intending to award the project; Upgrading to Bitumen Standard of Marakabei to Monontša road” to China Geo-Engineering Corporation “after successful negotiations”.

“We sincerely appreciate your showing interest in this bid and trust that you will continue showing interest in other Roads Directorate projects,” Moliehi Ntlhakana - procurement manager – wrote in an email. Public Eye has confirmed the authenticity of the email. Mothabathe also sent Likate a letter on December 18, informing him that the two projects will be awarded through standard contracts to preferred bidders in a “normal way”.

“This implies that the contract relationship will be between the contracting authority (Roads Directorate) and an individual contractor, therefore no third party will be involved in that relationship,” he said. He further explained that the 30 percent sub-contracting clause is a performance component on the part of the contractor. As such, he continued, the Roads Directorate has no say on how the contractor engages his contracts as long as that performance indicator is achieved during appraisal.

“What we are going to request as an employer is a sub-contracting plan,” he said. Likate told this paper yesterday that due to year-end holidays, they (CLC) have not met to discuss Hlalele’s response. “The construction industry is closed at the moment for holidays and, as such, we have not been able to meet to discuss this latest development,” he said.

In his letter, Hlalele also told Likate that if CLC believes it is correctly placed to represent the interests of Basotho contractors, “you are free to approach respective contractors and pledge your expertise”. He added that: “It must be noted that any interference on our part on the contract would jeopardise our ability to administer the contract. Therefore, we are in no position to accord CLC any special privilege regarding eligibility to be sub-contracted.

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