By ‘Majirata Latela
Public Accounts Committee chairperson, Teboho Sekata says the committee’s members are yet to meet to deliberate on the letter they have received on Tuesday this week from the Speaker of Parliament, who ordered an abrupt halt to investigations into government’s supply agreement with Frazer Solar GmBH agreement with Lesotho.
Speaker Sephiri Motanyane indicated in the letter that he was not questioning the mandate of the PAC which is busy collecting information surrounding the alleged or purported signing of the agreement.
“While I do recognise the doctrine of separation of powers between different branches of government, I do feel obliged to take action in the circumstances under which we find ourselves to ask for your intervention, and my taking this course of action should not be understood or interpreted as enragement. It is not; I am also writing this letter cognisant of the fact that under parliamentary privileges, the house is entitled to any subject.
“As I have pointed out above, there is now a case in South Africa to which Lesotho is a party, over and above that preparations are underway to approach the High Court of Lesotho to have the above supply agreement revoked and set aside. The result is, this on-going investigation by the PAC will prove costly and prejudicial to our courts.
“The very same information collected by the PAC could be used against us by our opponents in court to gain advantage or have influence to our case. The committee may not even be able to get all the information they may need because some witnesses may be reluctant to discuss any information while there is a case in court,” the letter read.
He showed that he is not even saying the PAC is not doing well in investigating the matter; however, he said it is the timing that he has an issue with.
Sekata said yesterday that they are hoping to meet on Wednesday next week to map out the way forward.
On the other hand, a member of the Public Accounts Committee, Tefo Mapesela has fired a broadside at Speaker Motanyane, dismissing the letter as ‘just a love letter’ which does not have the powers to stop the committee from doing their work.
He says their investigations as PAC can only be stopped through a court order not a letter.
“The Speaker does not have any powers to stop us from doing our work, we are going to meet and I believe we are going to continue with our investigations. What we see here is foul play by (Prime Minister Moeketsi) Majoro; he is using speaker to stop us from finding the real truth of the matter.
“He does not have any powers over parliamentary committees and cannot tell us what to do,” he said.
In another development, the minister of communications, science and technology, Tšoinyana Rapapa, on Wednesday said the commission of inquiry set up to probe the ‘purported’ supply agreement between German company Frazer Solar GmBH and the government of Lesotho, has been temporarily suspended pending completion of a court battle between the two parties.
According to a recent government gazette, the commission is tasked with probing events that led to the signing of the agreement of supply between the government and the services of notices in respect of the matter before arbitration and subsequent arbitration award.
Rapapa said those who have evidence are advised to come forward to testify under the guidance and regulation of the laws of the country and international laws.
He added that the attorney general has written a letter to the Speaker of the National Assembly to order a temporary halt to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) investigation into the matter.
The government’s deal with Frazer Solar GmBH for the provision of up to 40 000 solar water heating systems, 20MW of solar photo-voltaic capacity, one million LED lights and 35 000 solar lanterns nationwide was never a good idea, looking at the M1.5 billion that Lesotho was to pay in 20 years.
Solar power company Frazer Solar GmbH was awarded a R855-million in damages by a South African court after the Lesotho government reportedly reneged on a contract, which was purportedly to be funded by the German government, as part of a wider programme to turn Lesotho into a net exporter of electricity.
A global enforcement action was filed in the District of Columbia in the US, paving way for the seizure of Lesotho’s assets around the world. These include royalties paid to Lesotho’s government by the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority as well as payments for power from Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. Lesotho’s share in the Mauritius-based West Indian Ocean Cable Co. was also reported to have been provisionally seized.
The government of Lesotho has since applied for stay of execution in the High Court of South Africa, and the matter is scheduled to be heard in August.
Majoro and former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane are among the witnesses that the PAC has expressed an intention to summons. Among those who have already testified before the PAC is former government secretary Moahloli Mphaka who insisted that the architects of the Frazer Solar GmBH deal and those implicated in the scandal were intent on defrauding the government and should face the wrath of the law.
Mphaka told the PAC that whoever was involved in the deal with the supposedly German company should face prosecution for attempting to steal from the state.
“To my recollection I don’t remember a time when cabinet approved that project. There is no country which can enter into such a huge agreement without the approval of the cabinet; that means such a decision which was taken unilaterally is fraud. It is a fraudulent act that has been committed by the two parties that entered into the contract,” Mphaka said.
For his part, former minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Temeki Tṧolo, who witnesses have fingered as the mastermind behind the shady agreement and the signatory to the M1.7-billion deal, has professed his innocence, claiming he had been set up by his former secretary.