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Local company cries for stake in bulk fuel tender

…as Lesotho prepares to secure its energy security


MASERU – With government searching for a service provider for design, development and maintenance of highly specialised fuel storage facility, there is a growing consternation by a potential bidder that the tender is skewed in favour of foreign contractors to the exclusion of locals.

Teboho Tlokotsi, Managing Director of local company, IRT Group, yesterday wrote a letter to the Procurement Manager, in the Ministry of Energy and Meteorology saying it was clear from the published Request for Expression of Interest (REOI) that his company will not be considered as it will fail the selection criteria.

IRT Group specialises in the provision of extraction of crude petroleum, support activities for petroleum and natural gas extraction and manufacture of refined petroleum products.

A claim the MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism has learned the Ministry of Energy’s procurement officials have since refuted in a brief one sentence response to the complaint lodged by Tlokotsi’s company.

Tlokotsi’s company is crying foul at a time when the country is preparing to sort out its petroleum demand and supply economics by initiating the design, development and maintenance of its bulk fuel storage.

The Centre also understands that such a bulk petroleum fuel storage facility would require highly experienced and specialised technical expertise in its design, development, built and maintenance to avoid catastrophic spillage of any of the fuels that can pollute the environment.

But when fully functional, the Centre understands such a bulk fuel storage facility would see the country having petroleum security that would see fuel reserves stored locally and avoiding acute fuel shortages when South Africa experiences industrial actions that stop transportation.

When complete, the fuel storage facility will supply the country with various petroleum products, paraffin, petrol, diesel and others.

According to 2016 estimates, Lesotho imports around 20 million litres of petroleum products in the form of paraffin, diesel and petrol from South Africa every month.

In his letter, Tlokotsi said it was clear from the REOI that the ministry “will only consider service providers that have minimum of 10 years track record of successful development of projects of similar nature” within the Southern African region.

“This requirement, coupled with the one for at least 51 percent of local participation highly prejudices the nationals and/or citizens of Lesotho.”

He said this was more so, in light of the fact that the skills required to successfully execute the project are rare in Lesotho.

“Where such skills exist”, he added, “the holder thereof will not have the 10 years’ experience or funds required to execute the project,”

Tlokotsi’s letter, a copy of which the Centre has seen, continued: “We humbly request your good office to reconsider the call for expression of interest and design it in such a way that it will benefit the citizens and/or nationals of Lesotho.

“We wish to bring it to your attention that there might be need for participation of international actors in the petroleum industry for skills transfer in favour of Basotho.”

But the Procurement Officer ‘Mathakane Hokinyane, dismissed Tlokotsi’s submission in one sentence letter dated November 15. “Thank you for your views from the letter dated November 15, 2018, of which the Ministry of Energy and Meteorology is not accepting,” she noted.

Minister of Energy Mokoto Hloaele told the Centre on Thursday that he was neither aware of Tlokotsi’s letter nor Hokinyane’s response.

“I will be in the office on Monday. I hope I will have an opportunity to see the said letters,” Hloale said.

Tlokotsi had also requested Hokinyane to withdraw the published Request for Expression of Interest, “review its current form and publish a revised version” within 14 days from receipt of the letter.

“Kindly be informed that failure to comply will leave us with no alternative but to approach the courts of law for appropriate relief,” he concluded.

Tlokotsi confirmed to the Centre that he wrote to the ministry on Thursday and received a succinct response on the same day.

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