Two senior officials at the Ministry of Development Planning romantically involved, Lebelo Raliapeng and Leomile Mojaki, have been controversially linked to a preferred bidder in the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS)’s debt collection tender.
Raliapeng serves as the Ministry’s ICT Strategies and Projects Manager while his lover, Mojaki works as Director of Legal Services in the same ministry.
Raliapeng is listed as a managing director of Super Solutions, a preferred company for the NMDS’s debt collection tender, raising eyebrows that Super Solutions may have had an undue advantage against its competitors as Raliapeng was privy to classified tender information.
His romantic lover and Ministry of Development Planning director of legal services (Mojaki), is also facing questions about her role in the tender, her knowledge about Ralipapeng’s conflict of interest and the pair’s failure to declare these at the time of tendering for the contract.
While Raliapeng and Mojaki are said to have had access to confidential tender information before it was officially announced to the public, Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Planning, Sello Tšukulu told MNNCentre for Investigative Journalism that he was shocked to learn that one of his officers was selected as one of the preferred bidders.
Tšukulu says Raliapeng failed to disclose to the ministry that he was bidding for the tender under the same ministry that he works for, adding that this “will harm the integrity of the ministry” if Super Solutions wins the tender.
“I knew it was not right the moment I discovered their [Raliapeng and Mojaki] involvement. I wondered why they [Raliapeng and Mojaki] did not just declare their interest as they were consulted on several occasions about this tender [not knowing they had interest],” Tšukulu said.
Mojaki declined to comment but Raliapeng responded to the MNN’s questions saying that Super Solutions is not his company.
However, an MNN investigation revealed that Raliapeng only relinquished his shares in the company after questions about his involvement and his conflicted interests had been raised.
When concerns about Super Solutions and Raliapeng’s involvement started being raised, a letter from Super Solutions Project Manager, Tau Mailula demanded explanations for the delays in getting the tender process going.
“It is approximately three months since we have been expecting to receive the invitation to tender as your office had indicated…When is your office going to provide us with a said invitation to tender to proceed to the next level?” read the letter.
Tšukulu responded saying his ministry decided to reject the initial Expression of Interest on the basis that it “lacked competitiveness”.
Tšukulu decided to re-advertise the tender on 29 November 2021. Raliapeng challenged this in court, filing a founding affidavit in his capacity as the Super Solutions managing director.
Raliapeng told the court that he was shocked by the rerun as the ministry did not communicate it to them as the preferred bidders.
The case was eventually settled out of court in Raliapeng’s favour, with Super Solution’s continuing as the preferred bidder.
This was after Attorney General, Rapelang Motsieloa, advised Tšukulu to do so as “there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate a conflict of interest” from Raliapeng and Mojaki.
Tšukulu said: “The Attorney General told me that there wasn’t enough evidence to suggest a conflict of interest and advised us to settle with Super Solutions out of court”.
When MNN questioned Motsieloa about how he found that there were no conflicting interests, he said: “I am not going to discuss my advice to the government with you. I hope this puts the matter to rest. Please!”.
While court papers also show how Mojaki, in her capacity as the ministry’s legal services director, advised Tšukulu against readvertising the tender, Tšukulu believes that Mojaki, in her capacity as director of legal services, did not treat the matter with the required level of urgency.
In Mojaki’s letter to Tšukulu, which her boyfriend Raliapeng attached as “evidence” to the court, she indirectly incriminates herself saying “she had tried to advise the Minister against rejecting the tenders” because there were no grounds to do it.
Mojaki refused to discuss this issue with MNN, but in her letter, she says that she was offended by Tšukulu’s alleged labeling of her relationship with Raliapeng as “Vat en Sit” (cohabitation) rather than simply calling him “her boyfriend”.
“I presume you meant boyfriend…but you confused the two,” Mojaki said.
The letter further states: “My perception of you [Tšukulu] and from your offensive behaviour towards me on the 9th December, is that you are frustrated by this case. The frustration which you brought unto yourself by arbitrarily and without the necessary powers rejected the tenders.”
However, Mojaki argued she on the same day instructed Civil Litigation to file a notice of intention to oppose even though she was “yet to go through the case (which was the following day) in order to determine whether we have a defense and formulate the instructions”.
“You remarked that I cannot be serious to be saying to you that I have not read the case despite the urgency thereof. The case was brought to the PS office at 3.30pm. I received it at 3.53pm from the senior legal officer Ms Lineo Matela.”
Approached to comment, Raliapeng questioned MNN: “Why don’t you talk to the owners of Super Solutions…why did you choose me? Many people think that it is my company but it is not mine…and why do you have interest in this case while there are so many other cases out there?”
Inspection of the companies’ register shows that Raliapeng was Super Solutions’ sole shareholder from September 2016 when the company was incorporated until he relinquished his shares on January 3 this year, a few days after the company filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Development Planning.
“There is nothing that I am going to say since I’ve already fought this matter in court, there is no one else that I am going to answer until I’m in court again…this will not be the first time I beat them in court, I will keep beating them because they personalise things…I am not their [ Tšukulu and Planning Minister Selibe Mochoboroane] boy.
“Right now, I am ready that whoever I fight, I will fight them with everything. You too, there are so many things you should write about, but you chose this story because you are being used. From now on, I am not going to talk to you and I don’t want to see you at my office or have you call or bother me anyhow,” said Raliapeng.
This is not the first time that the NMDS debt collection has been faced with controversy about employees with conflicting interests.
In 2015, a local firm, Jamale Holdings had its contract terminated for misrepresenting itself during the tender process.
According to Public Eye investigations, Jamale deceived the NMDS and the Ministry of Planning claiming to have partnered with a well-known expert and consultant, Christopher Bean, of South Africa as it had no prior experience in debt collection. During the three years that it was engaged, Jamale never met the government’s M5-million per month collection target.