Brazen arbitrariness and arrogance of some Lesotho Millennium Development Agency (LMDA) employees came under the spotlight when service providers related stories of malpractice before the Ombudsman in Maseru this week.
LMDA is a government agency mandated to complete, oversee and manage implementation of work-in-progress of projects which were not finalized by the Millennium Challenge Account Lesotho when the Lesotho Compact came to a close on the 14th January, 2014. The mandate of LMDA was further extended to include Compact II development and maintenance of health care facilities until December, 2016.
LMDA appeared in court earlier this month accused by a joint-venture of Twos (Pty) Ltd, a local medical supplies company, and a South African-based Botsheko Medical and Surgical Suppliers (Pty) that wanted the High Court to block the LMDA from cancelling a tender.
When Ombsuman Tseliso Mokoko this week called LMDA to a public enquiry, LMDA chief legal Thabiso Mohapi – who did not want media to be present at the enquiry – told Mokoko that matters that were going to be discussed were not meant for media and he would prefer for the media to be dismissed.
Mokoko, however, told him that ‘public enquiry’ means that the matter concerns every member of the public, and therefore the media should be present.
An independent contractor Motho-oa-Sebaka Letsie said he had worked with LMDA from 2016 when it first started the Emergency Transport Services, where he provided LMDA with transport. He said he was then still in the venture with other contractors and they had a one-year contract.
Letsie indicated they were providing transport for Moketsane Clinic, Libibing Clinic, St James Hospital and Malefiloane Clinic, all in Mokhotlong. He said from 2016 until 2017 they worked perfectly fine with LMDA until 2018.
He said when he decided to go solo in 2018, the beginning of the contract was smooth but later on in November he started not receiving payments. He indicated that in the first month he was told that the agency did not have funds yet but they would pay him as soon as they could.
“I was still submitting my claims every month-end and when the non-payment persisted, I went to the offices to enquire but, again I did not get a straight answer. This went on for six months until I could not afford to pay my drivers or fix the cars,” he said.
“One of the cars broke down and I had to replace it with another one because I could not afford to fix it. I told the LMDA offices that I had had to replace the car with another one and I was told to write a letter. I wrote the letter. I was still not getting paid and it was getting harder and harder to maintain the cars, and the drivers were now starting to complain. I was told that one of the LMDA officials went to Mokhotlong to inspect the cars and later that week after the inspection I was called to the offices,” Letsie said.
He said when he was told his cars were not in good condition and that he used one car for two clinics. His response was that the tyres of the cars were not in good condition because he did not have money to maintain the cars as he had not been paid.
Letsie said the meeting was full of accusations and it ended quickly as he was not given a chance to explain his side of the story. He said to his surprise on April 26 this year, he got a show cause why letter from LMDA asking why he should not be fired.
“Later on I was told that I should not continue with the job because my contract had ended. This was surprising because I had still not gotten my pay for three months as the other outstanding money had been,’ he indicated.
The Ombudsman asked him if LMDA had ever called him to tell him that they had lost any money because of him and he said ‘no’.
Letsie said he received a letter from LMDA that blacklisted him from working as a contractor again. He said that killed him because he still did not understand what wrong he had done.
The contract between LMDA and Letsie says if LMDA does not pay him with the 30 days of the claim, he is eligible for a pay with interest. This is where Letsie said he was called by a man he believed to be LMDA CEO, who threatened them that they (he and other contractors) should not dare demand interests.
LMDA chief legal officer Thabiso Mohapi insisted that LMDA did not pay Letsie because some of his claims were invalid. He then promised to review Letsie’s claims and asked him to resubmit them, and if they are satisfied with them they will pay him the outstanding money.