Horror trip haunts minister

Horror trip haunts minister

MASERU – A bungled trip funded by UNESCO has come back to haunt Tourism Minister Joang Molapo.
UNESCO paid for Molapo’s ticket to a forum in Paris in November but he did not make it to the meeting despite arriving in France.
The United Nations agency is now demanding answers.
UNESCO wants to know why Molapo was not at the forum held on November 19.

thepost has seen emails between the UNESCO secretariat, the minister and his private secretary.
In one of the emails the secretariat said the minister was scheduled to participate in panel on “Culture in the public space, an engine for social and urban transformation”.

It said Molapo informed UNESCO’s programme specialist at the agency’s head office in Zimbabwe that he has arrived in Paris.
“We were informed that your Minister had safely arrived in Paris and that he had checked in at the Hotel Ibis Cambronne,” the secretariat said.
The secretariat said its attempts to contact the minister and UNESCO’s permanent delegation in Lesotho on November 19 where unsuccessful.

“As you may know, the travel expenses of for the participation of the Minister in the UNESCO Forum were borne by UNESCO,” the secretariat said.
“In order to ensure the appropriate administrative and financial follow up to such expense, we would appreciate receiving justification of the expense for the travel in view of the absence of the Minister from the Forum of Ministers of Culture on 19 November 2019.”

The minister’s private secretary Lieketseng Motsamai responded on December 2, confirming that her boss had arrived in Paris but run into problems.
She said the first problems were that the minister did not have his luggage as it was missing and he also had to take a train from the airport to the hotel.

“However, he got very delayed by the train, for that matter, he delayed his lunch,” Motsamai said. “He has ulcers and got a terrible tummy bug on his arrival to the hotel. He tried all home remedies to get better so that he could quickly rush to the forum. Unfortunately, he felt better the next morning.”
Motsamai apologised for the “inconvenience”.
The minister then responded on December 5, confirming that he arrived in Paris but did not attend the meeting.

“I arrived in Paris without my luggage. I waited a long time at the airport in the hope of getting some feedback on where it was,” Molapo said in the email.
“I got to the hotel where I was booked in. I did not get a room until after midnight. So at the time of the conference I had no place to get freshened up and had no clean or suitable clothes.”
He said he placed “no responsibility on the organisers for the conference and I asked for confirmation of the amount due and the details to where the payment should be made”.

Last night Molapo told thepost that the trip was a “logistical nightmare”.
He said when UNESCO confirmed the booking on November 15 he did not have a visa. He then asked that his itinerary be changed so that he could travel to South Africa on Monday for the visa.
He eventually left for Paris at around 5pm on Monday 18 (Monday) and arrived on November 19 (Tuesday) at around 10am.
“I was already behind schedule because the meeting had started at 8 am. But then came the several problems,” he said. “I took a train because no one from UNESCO was there to pick me. I was missing my luggage.”

“At the hotel they said I was not booked despite the fact that we had booked earlier. I went around to nearby hotels but could not get a room.”
Molapo said it would be unfair to insinuate that there was something scandalous about his failure to attend the meeting.
“I tried everything possible but I could not make it because of problems that were not of my making. I am not blaming anyone. These were just unforeseen problems,” he said.

“I have made it clear that if reimbursing the air ticket cost is what it will take to maintain good relations with UNESCO then we will do that.”
Motsamai said UNESCO had offered the minister a ticket after the ministry said it did not have the money for him to attend the meeting.
She said UNESCO said it would not pay for meals, accommodation and visa fees.

“Normally the minister’s visa is organised by his secretary but at that time we did not even have the money for that. The minister however said he would sacrifice tand o go to South Africa for the visa because he knew how important this trip was,” Motsamai said.
“The minister really wanted to attend the forum but there he faced serious challenges that made it impossible. He was unwell and we at the office know that he has ulcers. He did not have his luggage, he had to take a train to the hotel and there was a problem with his booking.”

Staff Reporter

 

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