LTDC boss ‘pushed out’

LTDC boss ‘pushed out’

…says the board hounded him out……

MASERU – THE chief executive of the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC), Mpaiphele Maqutu, abruptly resigned this week after a bitter feud with the board of directors.

Maqutu submitted his resignation letter on Tuesday morning at 7:45am, a few minutes before his disciplinary hearing which was scheduled for 8:30.
Confidential documents seen by thepost reveal how Maqutu clashed with the board for the past three months. Strong letters have been flying back and forth in what was essentially a battle for the control of the LTDC.

The documents show that Maqutu was at odds with the board chairperson, Tieho Mamasiane, who is also the principal secretary of the Ministry of Tourism.

Matters came to a head at a board meeting on July 25 when Maqutu had a heated argument with board member Thato Mahasoa.
So acrimonious was the exchange that the board called an extraordinary meeting to discuss what it termed the “CEO’s conduct”.

After that meeting Maqutu wrote to the board complaining that he had been “completely ambushed and unprepared” for the discussion.
In that September 14 letter Maqutu denied standing up during the clash with Mahasoa and wondered why the board was bringing up the issue a month and a half after the incident.

He also questioned why the board was targeting him alone for censure and sparing Mahasoa whom he said was equally to blame for the fracas.
Maqutu, who is a lawyer by profession, also accused the board of seizing on his argument with Mahasoa to push the chairman’s agenda to control the LTDC.

“This matter is clearly not about the CEO’s conduct in relation to Mr Mahasoa and the chairperson,” Maqutu said.

“It is in my humble opinion about the LTDC being a department within the parent Ministry and the Board surrendering its fiduciary duty to the office of the PS and further to the office of the DPS and any resistance by the CEO to have this actualised will not be tolerated by the Board because the Board’s relationship with the PS is clearly more important”.

On September 18 Mamasiane began moves to fire Maqutu by asking him to give reasons why he should not be suspended and disciplined. He accused Maqutu of “gross insolence” and “insubordination”.
The gross insolence charge related to Maqutu’s acrimonious exchange with Mahasoa.

Mamasiane alleged that Maqutu failed to control his emotions “in the manner in which you directed your anger” at Mahasoa “in a disrespectful and unprofessional manner”.

“Your said behaviour was seen as menacing and could only be construed as such not only by the said Director but also by the other board members present,” Mamasiane said.

The allegation of insubordination related to a letter Maqutu wrote on July 10, accusing Mamasiane of refusing to approve his leave.
In his show cause letter Mamasiane said Maqutu accused him of “abuse of power, acting without good reason, refusing to take your calls and unfair and unlawful treatment”.

“Your address therein defies the undertaking for the highest standard, professional and ethical competence and integrity that is naturally expected of you in the performance of your duties,” he said.

“The Board deems your said conduct as breach of your contract of employment, contravention of LTDC code of conduct and dereliction of your duties towards your employer.”

Maqutu denied both charges in a response a week letter.
On gross insolence he referred Mamasiane to his September 14 letter addressing the board’s complaints about his quarrel with Mahasoa.

He said there was nothing in his July 10 letters that showed that he had been insubordinate according to the corporation’s regulations.
The letter, he said, did not show that he refused to take instructions or challenge authority.

“In effect the email of the 10th July is a grievance calling upon fair treatment in terms of LTDC’s approved policies and government governance”.
The board suspended him on September 26, saying it found his response “wanting in many aspects”.

On Tuesday Maqutu resigned just as the disciplinary hearing was about to start. He said he will serve notice until November 14.
In what could indicate how the relationship had soured, Mamasiane accepted the resignation a few hours later but said the board was not interested in him serving notice.

He ordered Maqutu to leave office immediately and return the corporation’s vehicle, Ipad and vehicle GPS. Yesterday Mamasiane confirmed Maqutu’s resignation but refused to give further details.

Maqutu was however blunt, saying he had been pushed out for clashing with the “board on what constitutes good governance”.
He said his “crime is to take a different view on what constitutes separation of powers between Ministry of Tourism, through the office of the principal secretary, and the LTDC as a statutory entity”.

“The parent ministry, through the office of the PS, wants to turn the LTDC into a department of the ministry in contrast to the LTDC’s mandate as stipulated by the LTDC law as enacted by the parliament,” he said.
He said there is a growing trend of political authorities meddling in parastatals.

“The whole idea of turning those institutions into parastatals is to give them some autonomy because it is agreed that they cannot deliver on their mandate if they are within the government structures. The trouble, however, is that once they try to apply the private ethos, political authorities start interfering.” Maqutu was serving his second four-year term. He was first appointed LTDC CEO in 2013.

Staff Reporter

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