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DCEO probes supplier over “fake” M2 million pesticides

Lesotho's widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa.

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’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) has begun investigating a local company for allegedly supplying the Agriculture and Food Security ministry with fake pesticides last month.

The ministry is said to have paid M2 million for the ‘fake’ pesticides. The company, Agripotec, had initially been awarded an M8 million tender to supply the Agriculture ministry with pesticides for the 2022 summer cropping season.

It had then supplied the pesticides and received payment for its services. It was later discovered that the company had been overpaid by M2 million and instead of demanding the money back, the ministry  asked Agripotec to supply more pesticides worth that amount.

A government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media, said the company subsequently supplied what turned out to be “fake” pesticides.

Agripotec has however vehemently rejected the allegations. It also argues that the now disputed consignment was not  for pesticides but a herbicide.

DCEO spokesperson, ‘Matlhokomelo Senoko, this week confirmed that they were investigating the matter. She however, refused to divulge details, saying doing so “would jeopardise investigations which are in the early stages”.

Contacted for comment, the ministry’s Director-Crops, ‘Mabafokeng Mantutle, also confirmed that they were investigating the matter. She however, refused to give details.

Explaining what had transpired, the government official, said, “This is not the first time that a supplier has been overpaid and asked to deliver more goods instead of returning the money”.

“In this particular instance, the supplier was asked to deliver more pesticides and he did so about a month ago. But it was later discovered that the latest consignment was branded differently from the initial delivery. This raised eyebrows and some phone calls were made to the South African company from whom the pesticides are sourced.

“Officials from that company subsequently visited Lesotho, inspected the consignment and denied that it had come from them. They even took some samples and later confirmed that the pesticides were fake. They then opened a case with the police,” the official said.

Meanwhile, Agripotec owner, Moeketsi Ntaote, has protested his “innocence”.

“It is quite disturbing because I clearly presented my case,” he said in an interview this week.

“At first, I was willing to pay back the M2million after I was made aware that there was an overpayment. Instead, I was told that reversing the transaction was impossible and I was therefore forced to supply a herbicide which I had never supplied before. I was not even asked to prepare an invoice, but the ministry gave me one that it had prepared itself.

“I turned to my supplier who, in turn, supplied me with what the ministry now says is a fake herbicide. How was I to know that it is fake? My supplier says the product is genuine.

“I am surprised by all this but more than that, it is painful that I’m now being investigated as a criminal when the matter should have been taken to the Commercial Court. I’m not a criminal and I’ve been supplying the government for several years without any problem,” Mr Ntaote said.