MCC ‘exonerates’ Metsing

MCC ‘exonerates’ Metsing

MASERU – THE Maseru City Council (MCC) has effectively exonerated the leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LDC), Mothetjoa Metsing, who is accused of stealing M53 million from the government.
Testifying before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Monday, the MCC Town Clerk ’Mantai Phaila gave a blow-by-blow account of how the money was spent.

Metsing was charged with theft and fraud of M53 million in 2014 when his relations with Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, whom he was his deputy and Local Government minister, soured.
According to the charge sheet Metsing had allegedly contravened provisions of the Penal Code Act, No. 6 of 2010 in March 2013.

“During or about 15th March 2013 to date, at or near Maseru, the accused did unlawfully and with intent to defraud, misrepresent to the Government of Lesotho and/or Minister of Finance that the M53 095 027.00 they requested from the Ministry of Finance and was allocated, was for the procurement of yellow plant and its insurance on behalf of the Maseru City Council,” the charge sheet read.

He was alternatively accused of failing to reveal to the Minister of Finance that he had already obtained the money when he requested it.
“This was done with the intent that the finance minister should act upon the said misrepresentation and as a result of the non-disclosure, the Minister of Finance granted a waiver for the procurement of new Caterpillars (road-construction machinery) worth M38 057 760.00.”

“This waiver was used as a pretext for the unlawful and wrongful expenditure and use of the M53 095 027.00,” the charge sheet reads.
However the Director of Public Prosecution Advocate Leaba Thetsane KC withdrew the case from the courts saying it was lodged behind his back.
On Monday, the matter again came under scrutiny when Phaila appeared before the PAC. She was asked to explain what happened to the M53 million.

The PCA chairman, Selibe Mochoboroane, was one of the accused together with Phaila and Metsing before the charges were withdrawn.
Mochoboroane was at the time the LCD secretary general and Metsing’s deputy in the Local Government Ministry.
“It is befitting that you shed light on what happened because the public wants to know,” Mochoboroane said.

Phaila produced a savingram from the then Principal Secretary of Local Government, ’Mapitso Panyane, dated February 2013 under which she requested a waiver to buy new catapillars or earth moving machines.
The savingram was directed to the then Finance Principal Secretary, Mosito Khethisa.

The request was for buying four new catepillars 428F 4by4 Backhoe Loader plus forks for about M3.1 million, four new catepillars 140k Motor Grader at about M12.6 million, three new catepillars D7R Track type tractor at about M16 million, two new catepillars 320D AK Hydraulic excavator for about M2.9 million and two new catepillars CS533E Vibratory soil compactor with pad foot shell kit for about M3.2 million.
These were bought at slightly over M38 million.

Panyane had requested a waiver because a company she had identified, Barloworld Equipment Company, had the “capacity to distribute equipment of the required standard”.
Panyane also reasoned that the Ministry of Local Government already owned a fleet of Catepillar plant and it was “therefore important to buy the same type of equipment”.

Phaila produced documents that prove how the machines were bought from Barloworld, the MCC account in which the Ministry of Finance deposited the M53 million as well as Barloworld’s Standard Lesotho Bank account where the money was deposited.
She also produced delivery notes for each pice equipment the MCC bought from Barloworld.
Now the remaining M15 million had to be accounted for as well.

Phaila produced a detailed narration of how the municipality spent the money.
She produced bank statements confirming payments of petrol for the machines for M1.8 million.
Her next document was proof of payment of heavy duty drivers.
She showed that a roller operator at Grade E was paid M6 892 per month while a TLB operator was paid M9 719 between October 2013 and January 2014.

About 70 workers were paid M958 885. Phaila’s next document showed that she contracted landscapers to improve Maseru city.
She entered into an agreement with a company called Eco Solutions which was given a contract to do landscaping maintenance and upgrading of parks in AME, Willow Park, Cathedral Park, LPPA Park, Welcome to Maseru City Park, Ha-Matala Traffic Circle, Thabong Traffic Circle, Main North Traffic Circle, PTC Traffic Circle, Thetsane Industrial, Thetsane Suburbs and the Ha-Tsolo Traffic Circle.

The company charged the MCC M2.3 million on an annual basis payable in monthly instalments of M199 977.
Eco Solutions was next given a contract to upgrade six parks for M5.1 million.
She also proved that the MCC incurred costs of making Maseru presentable during King Letsie III’s 50th birthday celebration and several suppliers of goods and services were paid.

Staff Reporter

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