Controversial Chief Justice’s lease deal still in force

Controversial Chief Justice’s lease deal still in force

A sub-lease agreement that saw a High Court judge secure a lavish mansion in Maseru is still in force despite an internal audit report condemning the arrangement in March this year. The High Court is renting the house for Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara. The house belongs to a fellow High Court judge, Justice Teboho Moiloa.

Compiled by the Ministry of Finance’s Internal Audit division, the damning preliminary report showed that not only were regulations flouted, but the arrangement was also an embarrassment to Lesotho’s judiciary. The sub-lease costs the judiciary M27 000 in rentals every month, which is M23 000 more than the legally provided housing benefit that is set at M4 000 per month.

The MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism (MNNCIJ) this week saw the sub-lease document.
The shady deal, signed by the High Court and Court of Appeal acting registrar Lesitsi Mokeke, was first revealed in a draft report dated 17 March 2017 and was reported by thepost newspaper and local radio stations.

In the aftermath of the revelations that tested financial accountability of the judiciary covering fiscal years from 2011 to 2016, Mokeke dismissed the audit findings arguing the report was in its draft stage, “that cannot be taken to represent a full picture.”
Mokeke added his team was yet to respond to some of the concerns the report raised.

According to the report, there were no traceable procurement procedures for the lease deal signed by Mokeke on behalf of the judiciary.
The report also pointed out the judiciary had leased a property owned by one of its officials—Justice Moiloa—for residential occupation by the Chief Justice contrary to Public Service Regulations.

It recommended a review of the lease deal to better manage financial resources in the judiciary in line with the regulations.
The report further pointed out the chief justice was only entitled to M4 000 in housing allowance and urged Mokeke, in his capacity as the registrar, to ensure compliance.

It added a surcharge should be granted on failure put corrective measures in accordance with Public Service Regulations.
In a new development, the MNNCIJ saw a copy of the sub-lease agreement that continues be in force. The document reads in part Memorandum of Agreement of Sub-Lease concluded and between: – M.M.L Moiloa (Herein after referred to as “sub-lessor or the landlord”) And Government of Lesotho [Judiciary] (Herein After referred to as “the sub-lessee or the tenant”) And Represented by Mr Lesitsi Mokeke in his capacity as (Registrar).
The Landlord, it says, agreed to sub-lease to the Tenant “and the Tenant agrees to take on sub-lease of the property known as: Plot No.150, Tsoere St, Hillsview, Maseru Urban Lesotho.”

The document provides that the sub-lease will be for a period of two years commencing on January 1, 2016 and terminating at 12 noon on the January 31, 2018 “and renewable at the end of the lease agreement.” The agreement further provides that the sub-leasee should provide a one month notice prior to expiry if interested to continue to sublet the property. It also grants the landlord power to renew the agreement at own discretion on conditions that both parties can terminate agreement by giving a sixty-day notice in writing to vacate the unit.

On payment of rentals, the sub-lease agreement provides that the monthly rent due and payable for use and occupation of the property shall be the sum of M27000. The agreement further provides in clause 3.2.2 that a five (5%) percent charge shall be charged for rent paid after the 5th of the month.

The deal further provides for a security deposit valued at M27 000 “that shall be forfeited to the sub-lessor in the event of any arrear payments, be it for rent, damage or whatever other payments may be due to the sub-lessor.”
Contacted for comment Mokeke said he would not be drawn to comment as the internal auditors had not released a final audit report.
He said the management in the judiciary has since responded to issues raised by the internal auditors in their leaked draft report.

“The past work conducted by the Internal Auditors was done as per our own request as the High Court and Court of Appeal in order to assess whether we are still on the right path in the utilization of the public funds. “There are certain concerns raised in the draft report that was leaked that needed the responses from the management. The management met and gave the responses to the Internal Auditors which may have the possibility of addressing their concerns,” said Mokeke.

Mokeke further adds “But until the Auditors would have considered our responses it would not be proper to talk about matters which are not final”.
l MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism (MNNCIJ) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.lescij.org for our stories, activities and funding sources.

Billy Ntaote

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