By: Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MASERU- Following pressure from some quarters the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has reported that it has activated the relocation process from MGC Park premises to their new head office in Maseru West.

From April 1, IEC is expected to have vacated the MGC Park premises.

This the Director of Elections Advocate Mpaiphele Maqutu told the journalists on Friday last week.

The present IEC tenancy is a politician, the Prime Minister Ntsokoane Matekane who owns the MGC Park. The Commission’s continued tenancy at the politician’s property raises ethical questions and borders on conflict of interest.

The long awaited relocation Advocate Maqutu said was in line with the precepts of “good governance and ethical conduct”.

“Urgency to move was accelerated by the question raised in Parliament concerning the current tenancy. This question of the current tenancy was viewed positively by the IEC itself as it is in keeping with good governance practice,” IEC has said.

Advocate Maqutu said prior to the decision to move out the Commission’s present office space, many stakeholders were engaged including the political party leaders consensus was reached.

As of April 1, IEC’s head office will have moved to Homestead Holdings (Pty) Ltd premises at Maseru West. This building was mired in controversy last year as it was said to pose a security threat as it was overlooking the State House- the official residence of the country’s Prime Minister.

Largely these fears were triggered by the fact that it occupies the same premises as the Mosque.

IEC continued: “On 27 May 2022, the Commission registered RFP (Revolution for Prosperity- the Prime Minister Matekane’s party) as a political party for purposes of contesting elections.

“On 19 July 2022, His Majesty fixed the date for elections to elect Members of the National Assembly. At this stage, we [IEC] were unable to move office as we were on the eve of elections. We scouted for the site soon after the elections.”

The Commission’s relocation to new premises will save it to the tune of M300 000.00 in rental fees per month.

According to the Director of Elections, IEC has been looking for permanent head office space since 2014, they have also tabled their plan to acquire the Homestead Holdings Pty Ltd property and they have received a positive response.

The Commission said the Ministry of Finance approved their application to construct their permanent residence in the north of M241 million. However, this would no longer be necessary as plans to purchase their soon to be head office are in the pipeline.

Advocate Maqutu said the owners of their soon to be head office are willing to sell them this property and their asking price is in the region of M91 million. He said they had engaged the Ministry of Public Works for structural evaluation and the Ministry has issued a structural soundness report that they shared with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning for approval so that they release funds when all necessary arrangements have been fulfilled.

The Land Act and Regulations required that for the purposes of ascertaining the market value of the property that the owner who wishes to sell names the price and the buyer engages two independent valuers who will after assessing its market value suggest prices.

IEC said the valuers have been engaged and will complete their work on February 1.

“The Ministry of Public Works and Transport structural soundness report was shared with the PS [Principal Secretary of the Ministry of] Finance who advised that we should urgently apply for virement paving way to the acquisition of the building before financial year-end,” said the Commission.