Foreign affairs officials grilled

Foreign affairs officials grilled

MASERU – THE Public Accounts Committee (PAC) grilled Ministry Foreign Affairs officials for turning a blind eye while the former consular to Durban helped herself to government funds.
Principal Secretary, ’Mamonyane Bohloko, and the human resources manager, ’Mampona Lesaoana, looked rattled by the probing questions from the MPs.
The PAC wanted to understand why consular Lerato Tšosane’s trail of sleaze is yet to be cleaned.

The PAC chairman Selibe Mochoboroane heard on Monday that in 2013 Tšosane, then Lesotho’s consular in Durban, misused hundreds of thousands of Maloti.
Relying on the findings of the Auditor-General Lucy Liphafa, Mochoboroane wanted to know what action the ministry took against Tšosane.

The committee found that Tšosane transferred M500 000 to her account and that money was not used for official business.
When asked by the ministry, Tšosane allegedly told the ministry’s top officials that she used it to buy furniture from Mafeteng. She allegedly also told them that she bought curtains.
The PAC also heard that Tšosane paid M35 000 in rentals for a house that remained unoccupied for a year.

There were also allegations that under Tšosane’s administration the consular office was so extravagant that it hired two photocopy machines for which it paid M75 000 per month.
Lesotho’s consular office is so tiny that it could not have needed to lease heavy-duty printing machines at such a hefty cost.
Tšosane is also accused of spending M10 000 on a Christmas party the ministry says was never held.

Tšosane also allegedly signed a cheque for M29 000 alone, which is against the government’s financial regulations. The Auditor General also said Tšosane used M867 000 for her own benefit.
The Durban Consular attaché ’Maphamotse Lepheana said she was working with Tšosane “but some of the things Tšosane did them alone”.
“As for the M500 000 that was transferred to Tšosane’s account I did not know about it,” Lepheane said.

“I only saw it as a written document. I was not part of it. She never said a word about it to me but we were working together in everything.”
“I also have no idea that Tšosane bought the furniture at Mafeteng.”

“I only know about M29 000 that was to be used to pay a lawyer who drafted contracts for workers, although they never worked,” Lepheana said.
The contracts were never drafted, she said.

Lepheane also denied that there was any Christmas party that Tšosane allegedly claimed M10 000 for it.
Principal Secretary Bohloko said they “did nothing with the issue of Tšosane because we were told that the DCEO (Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences) was already working on it”.
“We were told by our superiors at the ministry not to tamper with this case because the DCEO was working on it and by then Tšosane was no more working at our ministry,”Lesaoana said.

“So we were unable to do anything with her issue.”
The committee heard that when Tšosane left the consulate she went back to her previous job at the Ministry of Communications. She later took early retirement from the civil service before any disciplinary action could be taken against her.

The PAC also heard that in one month Tšosane was paid M79 000 as her monthly salary, an overpayment of M17 000.
Lesaoana said they only realised after her departure from the civil service that she was overpaid.
The PAC also grilled the ministry’s officials for hiring unqualified people in Lesotho’s missions abroad as accountants.

The committee’s worry was that these unqualified accountants are so incompetent that they cannot stop simple acts of corruption and fraud.
“There is a bottomless hole in the Foreign Affairs Ministry in which public funds are thrown,” Mochoboroane said.

Bohloko said they are told to hire people on the basis of political affiliations instead of their professional qualifications.
Tsoinyane Rapapa, a committee member, said it is embarrassing that people are recruited on political patronage.

“We were so disappointed when we were in Malaysia and we found people who were not qualified to work there as third secretaries,” Rapapa said.
“This will always cause us to suffer financially.” Mochoboroane warned: “You will account for all these mistakes, even after ten years if you do not change the way you do things. The minister will not (account), and we will forever be a broke country.”

Thooe Ramolibeli

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