Red Cross sees red

FamCast News
a month ago

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‘Mantšali Phakoana

A storm is brewing between the board of directors, management, and heads of departments at the Lesotho Red Cross Society (LRCS) following fraud allegations in a M2.5 million tender.

The LRCS received about M2.5 million from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), in Geneva, Switzerland for capacity building.

The fund is meant for the relocation of the LRCS offices from headquarters at Old Europa and making temporary structures at a borrowed house belonging to the government at Maseru West as well as refurbishing the organisation’s headquarters offices.

As part of the project, a M263 592 contract has been awarded to a South African consultancy company named Keyha Trading and Projects (Pty) Ltd, owned by a Lesotho citizen, Abner Moteane.

This publication has copies of the invoice and order of M1 757 280 as partial payment to Keyha Trading and Projects (Pty) Ltd for implementing a relocation project at Maseru West. The invoices also show a contract balance of M143 688

Keyha has been engaged to plan, make temporary structures, paint, partition offices, and other refurbishment works.

Other works not related to property will be given to another company that is yet to be appointed.

The project was scheduled to commence in January and end in June this year but it has been delayed by the squabbles over the tender process. However, it only started this month and there are still expectations that it will still be completed on schedule.

Sources who spoke to theReporter on condition of anonymity allege that the tender was awarded to Keyha Trading and Projects (Pty) Ltd fraudulently.

They accuse the LRCS president, Hareteke Nkhetše, and the acting sectary general Sechaba Mokhameleli of awarding the tender without following proper processes and acting against the organisation’s policies.

They said the duo cancelled the tendering process and decided to award the contract to Moteane on the basis that he has been a long-time partner with the LRCS.

This decision was made without consulting tender panellists like the chairman of finance and audit committee, and the finance director.

Keyha Trading andProjects (Pty) Ltd had previously been engaged by the society for a market and visibility study when the organisation initially wanted to uplift all its buildings at the headquarters.

“It was under a separate project that was finalised. However, there was a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Red Cross and Keyha that even after the completion of this project, the company would source funds and look for investors for the construction.

“Part of the management argued that the MoU had nothing to do with the current relocation project. They said the MoU has never been a contract and was therefore,  not binding. Secondly, they argued that the MoU cannot override the organisation’s policies or systems of internal control.

“They wanted an open tender where all interested bidders would be able to participate. But unfortunately, neither the board members, the president nor acting secretary general listened to them,” said one of the sources.

Another source within the organisation alleges that on January 4 this year, just a few days before the decision to award the tender to Keyha was announced, Mokhameleli, Nkhetše and Moteane had a “secret” meeting at the organisation’s headquarters after working hours.

“Awarding the tender to Ntate Moteane was just an arrangement convenient for certain individuals. During the process of this tender, there has not been segregation of duties between the president and acting secretary general. They personally signed orders, requisitions and all paperwork.

“They also allege that the former secretary general of the LRCS, Kopano Masilo, who has recently been appointed the head of delegation, Pretoria Cluster Delegation for Southern Africa by the IFRC, Geneva are close friends with Moteane, and that results into a conflict of interest,” the source added.

Contacted to comment this week, LRCS president Nkhetše referred this publication to the secretary general (Mokhameleli) for clarity on the matter.

Mokhameleli said there was no fraud in the awarding of the contract to Keyha Trading and Projects (Pty) Ltd.

He noted that Moteane has been supporting the organisation at a time of need and therefore, deserved the contract as per the MoU.

Mokhameleli also noted that due to budget constraints and lack of donors, the LRCS had decided to raise funds through renting out its premises as that was the only reliable source of income to save the organisation from sinking into debts.

According to Mokhameleli, the LRCS management in 2021 decided to source donors and investors through networking, to assist the organisation in uplifting the headquarters building to be modernised in order to attract tenants.

In the process of this, he noted, Moteane was the only person who was willing to do the whole project for the LRCS on a pro bono basis, while other five companies demanded payment which the organisation lacked.

Mokhameleli indicated that it was under these circumstances that the organisation took Keyha’s offer with promises to give it first priority in all its property projects.

“We made a mutual agreement with Ntate Moteane that as a way of paying back his generosity, we will give him priority in all our property projects. We then signed a MoU.

“The MoU stated that Keyha would source for investors and funding. Ntate Moteane has honoured his obligation and through his facilitation, FNB has planned to move its offices here by June.

“In our proposal for funding, under risk medication category, we stated that we have a contractor whom we have an MoU with and therefore should we be given funds, we are not going to source companies outside but we are going to use the same company. There is nothing fraudulent about that, the funder is aware and happy about that,” Mokhameleli said.

He explained that the tendering process was cancelled last month after Moteane had written a letter to the LRCS president insisting he had the right to be given the tender.

Following Moteane’s letter of concern, Mokhameleli said, the 11-member board of directors decided to do the right thing by suspending the tender and honouring the society’s obligations to avoid litigation.

He acknowledged that some of the staffers were not pleased by the board’s decisions but there is no one above the board, “not even me”.

Mokhameleli added: “I’m not a board member; I’m secretary of the board, representing staff. I would never defy the board’s directive.

“In trying to be transparent, I even went as far as engaging IFRC as the funder to make it aware of concerns raised by part of the management but they did not show any dissatisfaction in us engaging the company we already had a mutual agreement with. They said they were happy.

“My conscience is clear because I got a written directive from the board. There is nothing fraudulent here. I am doing this for the organisation. Our aim is to generate money and that’s exactly what we are doing.

“The project is good and running and the plan is to move by June so that tenants can also start moving to our offices. As for Ntate Masilo, he has nothing to do with the daily operations of the LRCS. He is based in Pretoria and his duties end there. When we first started engaging Ntate Moteane in 2021, he (Masilo) was the secretary general. He left all the files in relation to this project with me,” Mokhameleli added.

A committee member who was appointed to oversee the implementation of the project, ‘Makarabo Qakatha, said the body was dissolved from the beginning, therefore she had no further information about it.

“I don’t know much about that project because the committee was dissolved. All I know is that it was said that we are operating at a slow pace and that we would be behind schedule,” she said.

In the midst of this dispute, the LRCS suspended director finance Teboho Nkoale and director human resources Moeketsi Motlamelle on March 25 this year, on the basis that they defied the board’s directive by refusing to sign the requisition form for the funded relocation project.

Contacted for comment this week, Nkoale confirmed his suspension following his refusal to sign the requisition to award the tender to Moteane on March 22.

However, Nkoale said he would not comment further pending a hearing on the matter.

“It is true I have been suspended but I cannot comment because a hearing is in the pipeline; date is yet to be set though,” Nkoale said.

Efforts to get comments from Moteane and Masilo (both based in South Africa) on Wednesday this week were fruitless as their WhatsApp numbers were not going through.

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