Maseru mayor Mpho Moloi and fellow Maseru City Council (MCC) councillors have strongly denied corruption allegations levelled against them by Local Government and Chieftainship Affairs minister Litšoane Litšoane.
Ms Moloi and 20 Maseru City Council (MCC) councillors this week said Mr Litšoane "must have been totally misinformed and there was absolutely no truth" to his claims that senior managers and councillors had helped themselves to M3, 5 million meant for development projects in the capital.
They also expressed shock at the minister's "unilateral" decision to dissolve the council's tender board on the grounds that councillors were not supposed to sit on it. Mr Litšoane this week announced the dissolution of the tender board, saying the move was necessary to rid the board of councillors who sat on it in contravention of the Local Government Act of 1997.
Ms Moloi hit back at the minister saying there was nothing amiss with the councillors sitting on the tender board. She vowed they would disregard its "purported" dissolution and continue with the business of awarding tenders, among them, the tender for the construction of new Mpilo highway.
"We were shocked to hear that the minister has decided to dissolve the tender board. There are so many other committees in the MCC and it is strange that of all these, he chooses to dissolve the tender board when it is in the middle of processes to award tenders for the construction of the new Mpilo highway. By so doing he invites us to believe rumours doing the rounds of interests to torpedo the proper adjudication of this tender and corruptly sway it to certain favoured people.
"I would like to make him (Mr Litšoane) aware that his decision to dissolve the tender board is just a joke. Just like him, we are all here with a mandate from the people who elected us. For him to decide to dissolve the tender board is just a huge joke."
On his part, the chairperson of the MCC tender board, Metsing Mothetsi, said its "purported" dissolution was a unilateral decision taken without their input. It was still to be formally communicated to them, he claimed.
"We just heard over the radio that the MCC tender board has been dissolved. We do not have a problem with the honourable minister's (Mr Litšoane) powers (to take action) but he should have engaged us on a formal level. He still has not informed us that the board has been dissolved."
Mr Mothetsi said they found it puzzling that Mr Litšoane was only acting against them now when they were in the middle of awarding tenders for the Mpilo road. He said this was despite the fact that the same minister had never questioned them for awarding tenders in the past.
"We have awarded tenders for road constructions before and the minister has never complained. Now we wonder why he views the tender processes for the Mpilo road differently from other roads. We wonder why he has to hijack them (Mpilo road tenders) just after the same panel has opened the tender applications. With all due respect, the Honourable Minister is being unfair on us," Mr Mothetsi said.
MCC councillor Lebohang Karala accused Mr Litšoane and his principal secretary, Khothatso Tšooana, of tarnishing the councillors' image by spreading "false" claims that they illegally took money from the MCC as loans and salary advances.
Mr Karala said it was also wrong of Messrs Litšoane and Tšooana to say the current council had crafted the policies to illegally help themselves to council funds when the same policies were approved by previous governments.
He said it was not true that councillors had taken M3, 5 million from the council coffers, adding that only M77, 900 had been given out as loans or salary advances.
"I will not say that the honourable minister is lying but it is clear that he was given wrong information about the operations of the MCC. It is a pity that all this information is ruining our images and it is going to affect us politically. The best he could have done was to engage us before going to the press with his unfounded accusations," Mr Karala said.
Deputy Mayor Tholang Sefojane said it was not the councillors but the "the- powers- that- be" that caused the MCC to be broke by taking money from the council's account.
Mr Sefojane said the council was so broke that they could soon be forced to vacate their rented offices at the Moonstar Shopping Complex in the capital.
"They take money from us," Mr Sefojane said without naming the government officials. "They want to give the Mpilo tender to their friends." He said Mr Litšoane should have got his facts right before attacking them. He also said Mr Tšooana had no business interfering in the affairs of the MCC.