M3 million siphoned from NMDS

M3 million siphoned from NMDS

MASERU – NEARLY M3 million miraculously ‘grew legs’ and ‘walked’ out of the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS). The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is stunned and furious. The NMDS says the money was paid as an advance to Lerotholi Polytechnic during the 2012/2013 academic year but does not know how it was used.
And to make matters worse the NMDS says it used the names of students who had long graduated from the school to transfer the money to Lerotholi Polytechnic.

The idea was to make the payment look like a tuition payment for the students instead of an advance. So in government’s books the payment reflects as tuition for 186 students.
Only that the students whose names were being used to make the illegal transfer to the college were no longer enrolled at the school.
Each ‘student’ was recorded as having paid M15 000 in tuition as part of the creative accounting contrived to ‘assist’ the college with its cash flow problems.
And none of those students was informed of the chicanery despite that their names were being used.

This was unearthed by the Auditor General Lucy Liphafa’s Report for the year ended 31 March 2017 and has since caught the PAC’s notice.
Yesterday the PAC demanded answers as how the money – enough to build a block of classrooms – vanished. Liphafa was present at the hearing as the PAC grilled Lerotholi Polytechnic officials.
The money in question seems to have paid the tuition fee for 186 ghost students enrolled with the Lerotholi Polytechnic.

Each ghost student was paid M15 000. The students were no longer enrolled with the academic institute. They had graduated from the college for the past years.
NMDS director Florinah Keketsi told the PAC that the money was an advance to the college and was therefore supposed to be paid back. PAC was worried about the manner in which the names of the 186 former students have been used in what has been termed “paying advancement”.

PAC chairperson Selibe Mochoboroane became was visibly irate as he quizzed the NMDS why they have opted to siphon money to pay their debts.
He said the money should be considered a debt that would have to be paid back by those involved. As emotions seemed to run high, a furious Samuel Rapapa pressed harder for answers.
“Is this fair to those people? Did you even tell them that you have used their names to advance the money? We really want answers from the director,” Rapapa said.
Keketsi said the advance was made after an agreement between the then Minister of Finance and then Principal Secretary, Tlohelang Aumane.
Aumane is now the Minister of Development Planning.

“We did this because we were trying to prevent students from striking which they mostly do when the money is delayed,” Keketsi said.
The PAC heard that the former students were not informed that their names had been used to justify the payment.
The committee wanted to know why the NMDS did not use the names of the students who were actually at the college so that the money could be used to serve its intended purpose.
Keketsi said she has no idea where money is. She said she was under the impression that Lerotholi Polytechnic used all of it.

She said if that is not the case then the college should have returned it to the NMDS. Liphafa quipped: “But you said you and Aumane said it was a mistake.”
Mochoboroane chipped in: “Now when PAC asks you about the money you said you do not know where it is?”
The committee ordered the NMDS to bring evidence showing how the money was used. The PAC members expressed shock at revelations that the NMDS paid the National University of Lesotho M136 000 for 20 students the college did not know.

This was despite that NUL had written a letter showing the number of students whose tuition was new. The college also stated the exact amount it was owed. Like in the previous case, the NMDS said the money was an advance payment for the NUL.

When asked to account for the financial flows on the table, Keketsi said she will go back to check what really happened. The committee also demanded the details of the students whose names were used to pay the alleged advance.

The NMDS was also asked to explain why 74 NUL students were paid monthly allowance more than once. This was after it was revealed that five students were holding more than one account, and they were paid to both accounts.

Keketsi said three former NMDS workers were accountable for laundering money using the student’s accounts. She said the fraud against the three is still pending in courts and have forfeited their terminal benefits. PAC asked the NMDS to bring the documents as proof.

Thooe Ramolibeli

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