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AUSC Region 5 Games aftermath: Service providers go unpaid

Business

…as Gov’t, LOC play blame-game

Mohloai Mpesi

The just-ended African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Games which were held in the country in December last year, have left a bitter taste to some service providers after the government failed to pay them for services rendered throughout the games which ran from December 3 to 12, 2021.

The struggle of the country to host the esteemed regional games became evident when Lesotho claimed a weak financial muscle and that the games be passed to another country, but that was non-negotiable as the region stood firm that the games are held on a circulatory system from one country to another and it was Lesotho’s turn to host.

There was no place to hide hence the country was forced to avail all the necessary resources to make the tournament a success, which is why a budget of M280million which was reduced to M222million in due course, was approved thus putting their trust on service providers to save the day.  

The irate hospitality services providers now say they have not been paid even a cent although they had bent-over backwards to make the tournament happen after they rendered full services of accommodating players and officials at their various establishments throughout the country.

Owner of the Morning Star Lodge situated in Nazareth in the north eastern outskirts of the capital Maseru Mapaballo Leteba, said they had incurred great expenses before and during the games as they were pranked for about three days to expect visitors who failed to show-up.

“We went into a lot of expenses, once we were told to expect visitors and cook for them but they did not show-up for three consecutive days. We cooked food that went to waste as they did not show up,” she said.

She continued that they were told to make order quotations before being directed to change and make cash quotations with the promise that they were going to be paid, which they duly did.

“They then told us to reduce the amount of money, we did reduce the amount before they said we should make order quotations again and claim a payment of 40% but nothing resulted fruitful until now,” she continued.

She continued that they had even blocked out other clients because they had been assured that the guests would be occupying the facility for entirety of two weeks, hence they reserved all the 18 rooms for their stay, providing accommodation, breakfast, lunch, dinner and doing their laundry.

“We even went to a loan shark to take out a loan of over M200 000 and put our car as collateral in order to get the money, worse, they have not even paid the deposit money they promised,” she lamented.

Approached for a comment, Deputy Chairperson of the Games’ Local Organising Committee (LOC) Mabaleha Mohale, confirmed that the service providers are yet to be paid as a result of government’s bankruptcy although the initially-budgeted funds had been committed.

“It is a fact that the service providers have not been paid because the government is still trying to find the money to pay them. I was told in December that the money is not enough to pay all the service providers, and that they are still going to be paid but they are not going to be paid all their money at once.

“Initially there was no money, the M280million was a deficit budget, and it was only on paper. The games were played with little money released in batches of M20million to pay for certain services,” he said.

“So the Ministry of Sports as the entity responsible for finances, is still knocking at the doors of the finance ministry to make ends meet.

“Some businessmen who provided services of transport with their buses ended cutting their services before the games could end just because they were not paid their money as agreed to,” he said.

Minutes of a meeting that supposedly took place last week between the Procurement Officer and Deputy Principal Secretary of the Ministry (DPS), point to some irregularities in the procurement of services.

It was confirmed in the minutes that “…the government had a budget of M280million but unfortunately the actual committed money is M222million. This allocated money is being released in batches of M25million.

“Accommodation submission totalled M17 million, of which the 40% of the total is M6.8million. The Accountant General was previously consulted for dispensation of funds before arrival of guests; however, the funds were not released hence why service providers provided services without having paid (sic). One of the conditions of payments was to sign contracts, which will be attached to the payment requisitions,” the minutes read in part.

Meanwhile, the services providers are said to have bemoaned procedural misconduct in the manner they were to sign service contracts after rendering service.

“It is not procedural to sign contracts after rendering services, which now put us in a vulnerable position. In spite of service providers having previously worked with Government of Lesotho with orders of more than M100 000, they have not met this issue of contracts before,” the minutes further read.

It further continues that, “Government sought quotation for Block Booking from facilities, however after a few days we were requested to revise our quotations to make Cash Quotations since payment would be done immediately after check out. To date nothing has been paid.

“As a result of Block-booking we couldn’t accommodate any other guests who stayed at our establishments, although we as service providers feel that this request is totally unacceptable because GOL (Ministry of Gender) indicated that they want to pay service providers based on the number of people who stayed at our accommodation facilities. The basis for service providers for refusing such a request includes the following:

“Loss of business from accommodation providers as a result of this request, procurement of new beds to accommodate guests by service providers, additional staff engaged to render required services by service providers, outsourcing of service (logistics) to meet requirements and loans taken for service rendering.”

The minutes further divulge the resistance of service providers of being paid according to the heads of guests who occupied their hotels and the flawed procurement procedure from the onset.

“We are aware that some lists were submitted by service providers as a result of the request that was made however, our request is for funds disbursement against orders that were made instead of using guest lists because no communication was ever made to service providers upon realization that guests wouldn’t fill establishments as per plan.

“It was evident that procurement procedures to secure accommodation services by government were faulty from the onset. Services were rendered based on the order and therefore service provider will only accept contracts that are based on the order.

“DPS committed to request contracts to be in line with the orders issued upon having consulted with Ministry of Finance. Her suggestion is for service providers to be paid in trenches of initial 40% and then 60% due to shortage of funds.

“Our request as service providers is to be paid 100% as the services were rendered in full, having incurred debts to provide required services. Establishment owners request full payment (100%) from government as previously indicated in the orders provided to establishment owners,” the minutes reads.

A member of the Lesotho Hotels and Hospitality Association (LHHA) Lejang Leteba, who was present in the meeting told this publication that they exhausted all possible means to have their money paid and are hopeless that things will materialise after their meeting with DPS, and that they are planning to take matters to court and consider writing to the regional headquarters of AUSC.  

“There is no hope at all, we might not get our money, they said we will be paid 40% and we want the 100% of our money. The DPS even made example of those who were building the stadia and other establishments that they were paid their money in segments, we are not those people, we rendered services in full and we want our full payment,” he said.

“She further stated that the hotels were not full as some rooms were not occupied and they will only pay for people who occupied, so we told her that they told us to block our customers and we had to cancel the workshops and all other activities,” he said.

This publication made efforts to get a comment from the Accountant General who was allegedly consulted by the Ministry of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation to make a dispensation of funds, which proved futile as the Region 5 games were organised and orchestrated by the sports ministry.

It was further run from pillar to post as officials kept referring on to another until all pointed to the ministry as the final stop to provide the necessary answers.

At the ministry, the Deputy Principal Secretary Majoele Hlasoa, directed Newsday to the Principal Secretary, Dr Mamoeketsi Ntho who said that “… the news can best be explained by the Local Organising Committee (LOC)” which also pointed the ministry.  

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