The Health ministry's procurement manager, Tsietsi Mosae, has reacted angrily to the ministry's former principal secretary Lefu Manyokole's claims that he (Mr Mosae) could have prejudiced the government of millions of maloti through corrupt dealings with Indian medical equipment supplier, Verobien Healthcare.
In an interview with the Lesotho Times this week, a livid Mr Mosae warned Mr Manyokole against making wild accusations against him or risk being exposed for the "terrible things" he did during his time at the ministry.
This after Mr Manyokole last week told this publication that he was "fired" from his job over his efforts to rid the ministry of graft. Government Secretary, Moahloli Mphaka, denied that Mr Manyokole had been fired, saying he had only been transferred to a new post as principal secretary for Economic Affairs as part of efforts to "realign our human resources to improve efficiency and performance". However, the fire-spitting Mr Manyokole insisted that he had been fired for his attempts to fight corruption. He accused Health Minister Nkaku Kabi, Mr Mosae and other Health Ministry officials of corrupt dealings with Verobien Healthcare.
"The fact is that I have been fired from Health. Finish and Klaar," declared Mr Manyokole. The corruption of the Indians has brought me down but the truth will never be defeated. The truth will always set you free. It shall set me free."
Mr Manyokole said he had also suspected that Verobien Healthcare had improper ties with Mr Mosae.
"The fact remains that what came between me and the minister is this company called Verobien. Those Indians had escalated their prices outside of the agreement that they signed with the Ministry of Health.
"These Indians thus brought corruption to our officials and I was trying to fight that. I was unhappy with our procurement manager (Mr Mosae) being at the centre of everything. He is the secretary for the tender panel but he travelled to India twice for this deal... I again ask, to do what? It's prohibited by law that any member of the tender panel have any direct or indirect relationship with the offer companies.
"What was the procurement manager's interest with this company... These are all questions I had to ask. We dispatched them (Mr Mosae and Director General of Health Services Nyane Letsie) to India to make sure that everything was in order but they came back with nothing. The only thing that surprisingly happened after their return was the increase in the prices of the tender... ..," charged Mr Manyokole.
This week, Mr Mosae hit back at Mr Manyokole, warning the latter to stop making wild accusations against him or risk being exposed for the "terrible things" he did during his time at the ministry.
"Those are simple accusations that he (Mr Manyokole) is throwing my way. Those are all lies. He should give you tangible evidence to prove his theory and I am more than ready for that. I am warning him that falsely accusing me will come back to bite him and he will wish he had never opened his mouth. The least he could have done was close his big mouth. Why is he not brave enough to give you evidence of my corrupt acts? I want him to give you evidence.
"He (Manyokole) says I am at the centre of corruption in the ministry yet I am not part of decision making in the tender panel. I am just a secretary to the tender panel. I can only advise but I am not a decision maker.
"I don't vote in the tender panel. My boss (Manyokole) is not telling the truth and I strongly suspect that, he (Manyokole) wanted me to tell these people (Verobien Healthcare) to give him a bribe. He wanted to have off the record negotiations with them. I don't find any convincing reasons behind his refusal to pay these people except that he wants something from this project.
"I don't know what pushed him into singling me out but my strong suspicion is that he wanted something for his own personal gain and didn't know how to approach me. It is my strong suspicion that he wanted to corruptly make a living out of this project and decided to frustrate everything when he realised it was a clean project," Mr Mosae said.
Mr Mosae said Mr Manyokole had signed an amendment to the ministry's contract with Verobien, detailing how the tender price had escalated from M33 million to M40 million and therefore it was wrong of him (Mr Manyokole) to claim that he did not know what caused the price escalation.
"I want this on record as advice to my boss (Mr Manyokole). He must stop talking too much because his mouth will land him in big trouble. As civil servants we know their (principal secretaries') deepest secrets. We know of terrible things they have done but we only keep quiet because we are civil servants. I am only responding because he (Mr Manyokole) declared war on me yet there are terrible things that he has done, things I could easily tell but I reserve that to a later stage," Mr Mosae said.
He said the contract for medical equipment and hospital beds was properly awarded to Verobien as all the tender procedures were followed before the contract was awarded.
He said Verobien was awarded the contract because of their technical expertise, experience in doing a similar job, their employees' educational background and on the grounds that their M33 million tender price was the lowest.
He said that Verobien wrote to the ministry requesting a price increase on the grounds that there was a 200 percent increase in the costs of raw materials for the project they needed to import from Pakistan, a 25 percent price increase in the cost of electrical raw materials imported from China and as well as increased costs for some equipment required for x-ray machines.
He said the increases in the costs of raw materials could have been avoided had it not been for misunderstanding at the top management of the ministry that led to delays in issuing Verobien with the letter of credit they needed to procure the raw materials. He said the letter was eventually issued to Verobien at the end of January 2019 and by then the costs of the raw materials had increased and therefore the tender price also had to go up.
"As per the contract, we were supposed to make three payments, the first of 60 percent (of the value of the tender) which was to be paid when the goods were shipped from India. Thirty percent was to be paid straight to the Verobien account upon delivery of the goods and the remaining 10 percent would be paid when all the works have been completed.
"Now the bone of contention here is the 30 percent. I received the goods (from Verobien) and wrote to my principal secretary (Mr Manyokole) indicating the status of the goods, the quality and quantity. I asked him to pay Verobien as per the contract and that's where we remain stuck as we speak. Verobien proposed a price increase but they never stated the percentage (of the increase). The percentage came from the ministry's tender panel. The panel made calculations from M33 million to M40 million and concluded that the tender price had increased by 17 to 20 percent.
"My boss claims that I have improper ties with Verobien and that is not true. Immediately after it became evident that Verobien had won the contract, the ministry decided that we should go to India to see if the company was operational. I was nominated by former principal secretary, Advocate Mole Kumalo, to go to India," Mr Mosae said, adding they visited the Verobien offices and plant in New Delhi as well as Verobien's partners in different cities.
"We certified 90 percent of the goods and told them (Verobien) to ship them (to Lesotho). I was not alone when I went to India, I don't have improper ties with Verobien."
Mr Mosae denied that he was corrupt, saying he had made money from the allowances he received for the numerous trips he undertook for various projects and these included trips to Germany, the United States of America and India.
"If he (Mr Manyokole) has a problem with me having money, I will gladly tell him how I made my money. I did not make it through corrupt means as a procurement officer but I made it through (travel allowances) on this project and others.
"I got a lot of per diems (allowances) and it changed my life. That is how I made money. I also got a lot of (per diem money) from the India trip to Verobien. Ntate Manyokole should not be jealous of me," Mr Mosae said.
But Mr Manyokole was unrelenting in his criticism of Mr Mosae yesterday. He described the two trips Mr Mosae undertook to India as "fake" claiming that the procurement manager had never visited the Verobien factory but had only met its agents at the Lesotho High Commission offices and at the airport. He said Mr Mosae had also met the Guptas. But Mr Manyokole said he did not know whether these were the same Guptas whose family members have been accused of fleeing South Africa after stealing billions.
"They did not go to the Verobien plant. They met Verobien agents at the Lesotho High Commission offices in India and at an airport there... And they also met the guys who are the Guptas. So Mosae's two trips to India were fake... He did not go to the plant... What was the purpose of paying that money (for the trips) if he did not go to validate the factory of this company," charged Mr Manyokole, saying Verobien could also not be said to be a reputable company as it "was only four months in business".
"Verobien Healthcare had been in business for only four months and had no track record. How do you determine the credibility of a company that only operated for four months," said Mr Manyokole, further accusing Mr Mosae of procuring incomplete sets of x-rays and then seeking to pay more for the missing components "in violation of procurement rules".
Mr Manyokole said Mr Mosae had "undermined procurement rules" by visiting a foreign supplier (Verobien) "they had already given business" and then "trying to pay that company seven more million maloti" than the original budget. He lambasted Mr Mosae for being disrespectful by calling him to "close his big mouth".
"I want to stress the importance of respecting your seniors at work. It's disrespectful to say your senior should shut up," said Mr Manyokole.