Blow for suspended LRA bosses

Blow for suspended LRA bosses

MASERU – FIVE senior Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) managers who were suspended for alleged corruption in March last year have lost their bid to reverse their suspension.
Court of Appeal President Justice Kananelo Mosito last week ruled that the High Court erred when it lifted their suspension since it did not have the jurisdiction to do so.

Four of the LRA officials are division managers with one being a mid-ranking manager.
They were suspended after the LRA Staff Union (LERASU) submitted a plethora of allegations to the board a month earlier.
The allegations related to the engagement of a prosecutor using the LRA’s funds, among others. The union first made the allegations in 2017 but the board’s tenure ended before it could discuss the matter.
Those suspended were Chief Financial Officer Mangangole Tsikinyane and Chief Planning and Modernisation Officer Idia Penane and Chief Legal and Policy Officer Dr Seth Macheli.

Also suspended were Moutloatsi Dichaba who is the Head Litigation and Chief Legal and Policy Officer who is also serving as the Board secretary and Advocate Realeboha Mathaba, the Commissioner Enforcement.
After their suspension, the five approached the High Court where the Acting Justice Moroke Mokhesi lifted the suspension and ordered their reinstatement with immediate effect.

Justice Mokhesi also declared the suspension unlawful, invalid, null and void with no force or effect.
He also ordered that the LRA should publicise their reinstatement through all media outlets it published the suspension.
The LRA argued that the High Court did not have jurisdiction to entertain the matter as it fell within the jurisdiction of the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR), the Labour Court and the Labour Appeal Court.

In his judgment delivered last week, Justice Mosito said there are two types of employment-related suspensions.
He said the first is called a preventive or administrative suspension which refers to the practice of barring an employee from entering the workplace to ensure that he does not interfere with the investigation of disciplinary action.
The second type is called a punitive or disciplinary suspension, which refers to the practice of suspending an employee as a disciplinary action, which would constitute a sanction after a disciplinary hearing.

“In the first instance, it implies that the employee will be suspended on full remuneration and in the second instance, it implies that the employee would be suspended without remuneration,” Justice Mosito said.
“In general, suspending an employee is permissible if all express and implied terms in the employment relationship are followed satisfactorily,” he said.

Justice Mosito said conceptually, the employer must have the authority to withhold work from an employee.
“What this means is that, in suspending the employee, the employer effectively refuses to provide him or her with work,” he said.
Turning to the High Court’s lack of jurisdiction to entertain the matter, Justice Mosito said “the concept of specialist courts dealing with specialised matters is a familiar one in our judicial system”.

“Examples of such courts include the Land Court, Labour Court and the Labour Appeal Court and so forth,” he said.
“In those instances, there is no doubt that the jurisdiction of the ordinary High Court has been ousted.”
He said a challenge “concerning suspension of an employee is a matter falling within the jurisdictional preview of the Labour Court and/or the Labour Appeal Court”.
He awarded no costs.

Staff Reporter

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