THE Ministry of Public Works and Transport has contracted a new firm of architects from South Africa to complete the construction of the new Royal Palace, which was unceremoniously stopped two years ago.
The building has been in limbo since 2012 after South African firm, Palace Architects, abandoned the project following a contractual dispute with the ministry.
The company was providing architectural expertise and its departure meant the Lesotho Steel Products (LSP), which won the overall tender in 2010, could not continue with the construction.
However, the Lesotho Times established this week that another South African firm, Makeka Design Lab, has been contracted to replace Palace Architects, paving the way for the completion of the project, which was initially allocated M160 million by parliament in 2010.
The Ministry of Public Works and Transport Principal Secretary (PS), Lebohang Phooko yesterday confirmed the palace’s construction would finally go ahead.
Mr Phooko said: “Construction of the new Royal Palace is expected to resume very soon because the Ministry of Finance approved our funding proposal last month. The approval followed lengthy negotiations we held with a new firm, which has agreed to take over and provide us with architectural services, which had been the reason why the construction had been stopped.
“I am not in a position to know how much had already been used before construction was abandoned in 2012, but I guess you can see for yourself that the structures were almost complete.”
While Mr Phooko would not name the company that replaced Palace Architects, the Lesotho Times has since established that the firm is Cape Town-based Makeka Design Lab.
The Lesotho Times has further discovered that Makeka Design Lab is not new to the project, as the ministry appointed the same company to provide interior design services to the new palace in 2012.
“I will not go into details of the contract by mentioning names and monies. What I can only tell you is that we had problems with the previous architect, who had failed to adhere to the terms of the contract,” said Mr Phooko.
“We decided to pay all the monies which were due to that firm and then terminated the contract around February this year. I should also mention that the architect had long stopped providing services at the construction site, further violating terms of the contract.”
Asked why the new architect was appointed without standard tender-procurement processes being followed, Mr Phooko said: “The new architect has been working with us in this project by providing interior design services to the new palace.
“It turned out the same company also has architectural expertise, so we thought it best and cheap to turn to this firm, which we were already working with and is also familiar with the new palace. It was going to be more expensive if we had again followed the tender process to get an architect.”
The Lesotho Times contacted Makeka Design Lab in Cape Town this week, where an official confirmed the company would be the palace’s new architects.
“It is true that we have been appointed to take over architectural services at the palace, and we hope to start sometime later this month after all the paperwork is done,” said the official, who declined to give her name.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Finance PS, Khosi Letsie, this week confirmed the approval of the funding for the palace.
“We have approved a financial waiver worth over M131 million for the completion of the new Royal Palace. As the Ministry of Finance, ours was just to receive justification from the Ministry of Public Works and Transport of how the money was going to be used.”