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Royal Palace construction stagnates: Parliament unveils alarming observations

Business

Ntsoaki Motaung

The consolidated report on the annual budget and estimates of revenue and expenditure for the financial year 2024/2025 has laid bare a litany of failures surrounding the construction of the long-awaited Royal Palace.

Presented to the national assembly by the portfolio committee on economic and development, the report shed light on a project marred by incompetence, mismanagement, and neglect.

Among the committee’s most alarming observations is the revelation that the construction of the Royal Palace, a monumental undertaking expected to symbolise the country’s grandeur and heritage, has ground to a halt since 2021.

This revelation comes as a bitter blow, as the project, already spanning an astonishing 13 years, remains unfinished due to a litany of internal issues plaguing the Office of the King and Building Department Services responsible for its oversight.

“The Committee noted with great concern that the construction of Royal Palace has stopped since 2021 and it has been under construction for 13years due to internal issues of the Office as well as Building Department Services regarding the project,” the report read.

It added: “The Committee noted that the delay in completing the project was due to internal issues of the Office as well as Building Department Services. Further, there was nobody assigned to oversee the progress made regarding the project.”

Moreover, the report revealed that the minister responsible for the project was expected to furnish the Committee with crucial financial, technical, and structural audits of the project.

However, to date, this information has not been provided.

Adding to the litany of failures, the committee highlighted the alarming turnover of subcontractors involved in the construction, casting doubt on the project’s stability and viability.

Coupled with delays and irregularities in warrant release, which hamper supplier payments and stall progress, the project stands as a monument to bureaucratic ineptitude and administrative failure.

The committee’s recommendation regarding the project is clear and unequivocal: “His Majesty’s Office should submit the Financial, Technical and Structural Audit related to the Construction of Royal Palace to the Committee.”

The report further revealed in the allocation of its capital budget, His Majesty’s Office received M210,000,000.00 designated for the construction of the new palace during the fiscal year 2023/2024.

However, a staggering M199,107,734.00 of this budget was reallocated to other ministries throughout the same financial period, leaving a revised budget of M10,892,266.00 specifically designated for the project.

“There was no expenditure under capital because there are still pending management issues relating to the project,” the report read.

His Majesty’s Office is assigned to promote a working relationship between His Majesty and the Government through strategies and mechanisms of regular consultations.

In November 2019, Mothabathe Hlalele, the then Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Public Works, provided an optimistic outlook on the progress of the new palace building.

Hlalele expressed confidence that the construction was nearing completion, suggesting that it could be officially handed over to the Royal Family by July of the following year.

He noted that only interior fittings and decorations remained outstanding before the long-awaited project could be finalised. Hlalele also mentioned that they were anticipating the delivery of furnishings for the interior decor, expected to arrive in Lesotho by May 2020.

The construction of the royal residence, situated a short distance from the King’s current palace in Maseru, commenced in 2010.

Initially projected to cost M160 million, the project has encountered numerous delays and setbacks, contributing to its prolonged duration and escalating expenses.

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