MASERU — A former director in the Prime Minister’s Poverty Reduction Programme (Prep), Topollo Lephatšoe, yesterday appeared in the Maseru Magistrate’s Court to answer charges of fraud, theft and corruption.
Lephatšoe is being charged together with a local company, VST Commodity Brokers (Pty) Ltd, and its director Pitso Masiu.
Lephatšoe is alleged to have manipulated procurement procedures to ensure that Masiu’s VST Commodity get a M90 000 tender to supply goods to the Prep in 2008.
Lephatšoe and Masiu were nabbed by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) after a protracted investigation.
The prosecution says the procurement procedure requires that an officer purchasing goods should make a requisition and specify the goods and then submit the requisition form to stores office for sourcing of three quotations from potential suppliers.
The stores office selects the supplier and issues out the purchase order to the supplier to supply the goods.
Having delivered the goods, the supplier submits the invoice to the accounts section along with the delivery note signed by him and the recipient confirming receipt of the goods.
The goods received are kept in the inventory registry for record’s sake, indicating the description, quantity, identification mark, if any, and any other details after the requesting officer has checked and confirmed that the goods conform to the specifications required.
In instances where goods are bought for use in Prep projects, a consignment note is prepared for each batch to be conveyed for delivery.
The prosecution alleges Lephatšoe disregarded this process when he gave the tender to Masiu.
It is alleged that he invited only two quotations from VST Commodity Brokers and Hatasi Equipment Supply.
He is alleged to fraudulently prepared the third quotation from a certain Mr Construction (Pty) Ltd.
The idea, the prosecution suggests, was to give the impression that Prep had sought three quotations as required by the procurement procedures.
Lephatšoe then reportedly ordered the requisition officer, ’Mamosa Masoabi, to fill in VST Commodity Brokers in the requisition form as a supplier.
Lephatšoe is also said to have issued out a government vehicle to take the VST Commodity Brokers director Masiu to collect goods from Durban and facilitated the full payment of the company before the delivery of all the goods.
Lephatšoe is also accused of assisting VST Commodity Brokers to “use public monies to supply the remaining goods if ever they were delivered”.
“The argument will be that such remaining goods were not delivered and, if not, such monies were fraudulently obtained therefore,” reads part of the charge sheet.
The company is accused of ordering “the store officer to sign the delivery note confirming receipt of the goods without availing such goods to the store for the officer to check or confirm that indeed they are delivered and that they conform to specifications”.
Lephatšoe is accused of misleading the government by saying “payment of M90 000 was lawfully due to accused 2 (VST Commodity Brokers) as a result of the delivery of goods.”
Testifying before magistrate Mokhoro yesterday Masoabi, who signed the requisition form on Lephatšoe’s instruction, said Lephatšoe had powers to single-handedly appoint a supplier if he knew that he could not find goods of the same quality in Lesotho.
Cross-examined by defence counsel, Makhetha Motšoari, Masoabi said Lephatšoe “would not be found to have erred by unilaterally choosing to deal with only one supplier”.
She said procurement procedure was not queried by the requisition officer, supervisor, financial controller, accountant, head of department and the principal secretary for cabinet.
Motšoari put it to her that the Prep office operates in a different way from other government departments because its head, Lephatšoe, had powers to decide what should happen and engage anybody with certain skills for specific jobs.
Masoabi said that was so.
She also agreed that some equipment was transported from the manufacturers straight to the Prep projects sites without following the normal government procurement procedures.
This, she said, was done in the understanding that Prep “operated uniquely”.
She agreed that Lephatšoe, as the brains behind Prep, was better positioned to know the needs of the project and the communities it served.
The requisition forms were filled with information from him and he was the one with powers to select the best supplier.
The case continues before Senior Resident Magistrate ’Makampong Mokhoro.