Envoy, PS clash  over upkeep

Envoy, PS clash over upkeep

MASERU – LESOTHO’S High Commissioner to London, Rethabile Mokaeane, has clashed with the Foreign Affairs principal secretary, Colonel Tanki Mothae, over her benefits.
The feud played out before parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) this week.

Colonel Mothae told the PAC that Mokaeane was being insensitive to the needs of the country.
Colonel Mothae said he expected Mokaeane to sacrifice for the country by not taking her three children to expensive schools in London.
He said the state does not have enough money to pay for the children’s school fees.

He said Mokaeane “does not want to cooperate even when the country is experiencing financial strains”.
“We wrote to the commissioner several times in trying to solve the issue but to no avail,” Colonel Mothae said.
The acting PAC chairman, Nyapane Kaya, asked Mokaeane through Zoom about her children’s issues and Mokaeane said “there is no change in my children’s school fees.”

Instead she asked the PAC to ask the mission’s third secretary, responsible for payments, “why the second, third and fourth quarters were never paid”.
She said she had since asked the third secretary to also provide the financial records of the mission.
“The government has allocated funds and we need to know what happened to them,” Mokaeane said.

Colonel Mothae said the diplomat’s benefits do not have a cap on school fees “but our understanding is that the ministry has priorities especially when the funds are inadequate”.
“There is no specific amount not to exceed while paying fees,” he said, adding that “London public schools still offer quality education”.

He added that they once made it clear that “diplomats should take their children to at least cheaper schools as our budget is not enough”.
He said the country is not in a position to pay.
Colonel Mothae said the rules are inadequate on issues of benefits as they are not clear at all.
“The rules should be there to avoid conflicts,” he said.

He said they have a M100 million variance that they were never given as per their proposal which is why they cannot meet some bills at the diplomatic missions.
“We encouraged everyone to sacrifice for the sake of the country as it is in financial crisis,” he said.
“It is a fact that affordability always supersedes everything.”

Colonel Mothae recalled that on May 9, 2019 when the London commissioner wrote to principal secretary saying her children’s admission was declined therefore asking for permission to take them to a private school but only for few months until September.
“But up to today the same children are attending the same schools like nothing happened,” he said.

He said his office again wrote to Mokaeane in late 2019 telling her about the ministry’s expectations that all students should be enrolled at public schools or else they would be surcharged if they spend a lot of money.
“The three children’s fees exceed all the fee budgets there,” Colonel Mothae said.

The ministry’s Legal Officer, Malefetsane Moseme, said there is a court order saying they “should only pay if the funds allow us to do so”.
“The order stated that the payment should be done within the affordable means not exceed the budgets,” Moseme said.
Mokaeane told the committee that she arrived at the London office in April not May and then “struggled to get admission for my children at school”.
“I found an affordable private school that I decided to enroll them at. People say it is expensive but here in London the schools are affordable,” Mokaeane said.

She said the issue of affordability was never communicated with her so that she could take her children to a public school.
She said she wrote a letter in 2019 asking for the document that says they should stop taking their children to private schools but it was never given.
She also said the government pledged to pay for her children’s fees “therefore they should do as per their promise”.

“They should have communicated with me first,” she said.
She added that she was asked to change schools twice which she said is not fair to her children.
She also said since last year her children’s school fees were never settled.
“The whole of the second quarter was not paid,” she said.
Mokaeane said she ended up paying for the second quarter from her pocket adding that she is expecting the country to pay it back.

Nkheli Liphoto

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