This is one that happened to a company I was helping set up a little while ago.

The company got a call from a tender official in Lesotho asking for us to quote on services to hospitals in Lesotho. He needed the quote really urgently as he had slipped up. There was no-one local who could help as they had all been struck off the list of approved contractors for various problems.

"With our excellent credentials, there was a pretty good chance we could get the contract." Flattery really works!

After getting as much detail as possible, and given the urgency, we decided to quote "blind", and really load the price to cover contingencies. Actually, two of us did not really want the contract, but if it came in at that price, we'd service it.

Blow me down we get a call to say we've been awarded the contract - but there are a few details to attend to first. We needed to register as a foreign contractor in Lesotho.

We got faxed a bundle of official documents to complete, along with a provisional order for the services. All documentation appeared to be on genuine Lesotho government letterheads! We filled out all the documents and paid the registration fee of R2000.00 by bank transfer.

Then the fun begins in earnest. We get a phone call from a new guy who advises us that he is the the person that has final authority to sign off on the contract. "Had we made provision for him?".

We asked exactly what he wanted. Basically R20 000.00 (about 10% of the contract value).

We phoned the Lesotho High Commission to verify that these were genuine staffers of Lesotho govenment and told them the story so far. We were told that this was a known scam - there was no contract, and the Commission had already received a number of complaints.

I guess we were lucky we only lost R2000.00. Also, two of us were adamant that we were not going to get into any underhand dealings.

But the one partner was really gung-ho about going for it. All he could see was a really lucrative contract slipping away....