Storm over govt fleet tender

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Billy Ntaote

One of the companies which failed to qualify for government’s fleet tender has threatened legal action should the Ministry of Finance proceed to announce the winner tomorrow as expected.

Chebelopele Fleetdata Consortium claims it was unfairly treated when the tender panel dismissed its bid for the multimillion-maloti tender last month and has since demanded that the evaluation process be stopped while its allegations of bias are being investigated.

Two letters Chebelopele wrote to the chairperson of the Tender Panel, ‘Mapalesa Rapapa, on 20 and 21 March 2016, make serious allegations of irregularity against the adjudicators and the three companies shortlisted for the tender (names withheld), which the complainants insist should disqualify the finalists.

The winning firm is expected to replace South Africa’s Bidvest in providing vehicles and related services to the government. Bidvest has been providing the service since taking over from Avis Lesotho on 1 October 2015. This was after Avis, which had provided government with fleet services since 2007, decided to withdraw its services with immediate effect after failing to agree a new contract with the Finance Minister amid accusations and counteraccusations of fraud.

Chebelopele Fleetdata Consortium officials who spoke to the Lesotho Times this week on condition of anonymity said they had not been responded to by Ms Rapapa despite repeated follow-ups on their letters. The officials refused to speak to the Lesotho Times on record, and said they still hoped to hear from the Tender Panel before the winner is finally announced.

According to one of Chebelopele Fleetdata Consortium’s letter titled ‘Unfair opening of Tender No 7/2015-2016 on 18 March 2016 at 2:30 pm in the former Tender Boardroom – Ministry of Finance’, the rules were allegedly not applied equally to all the bidding companies.

The company alleges two of the three winning companies do not have the required experience to qualify for the tender while all the three allegedly flouted tender regulations by putting their names on the envelopes containing their bids.

“This means these companies were not supposed to be considered for opening, and for further stages. We therefore request that all these companies should not be considered for evaluation as they failed the first submission requirement.

“Bidders advised the panel not to consider them for opening but they refused to do so. We have a strong feeling that the tender panel has vested interest in the three companies hence their weaknesses of compliance were ignored.

“We therefore request your good office to treat this as a matter of urgency,” reads part of the letters.

Attempts to get Ms Rapapa failed this week as her office said she was outside the country on government business. Her mobile phone was busy each time the Lesotho Times tried to reach her since Monday.

Finance Minister Dr Mamphono Khaketla said she could not respond to any questions related to the tender and referred the Lesotho Times back Ms Rapapa.

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