Mapesela fires senior staff at SADP project

Mapesela fires senior staff at SADP project

MASERU-WORK at the Smallholder Agriculture Development Project II (SADP-II) has ground to a halt after Minister Tefo Mapesela fired senior staff last week.
The project is financed to the tune of M700 million by the International Development Association (IDA).

Its aim is to help Lesotho’s farmers and agribusiness owners to minimise the potential impacts of climate change on their produce and improve productivity.
Lesotho received an additional M29 million from the Japanese Policy and Human Resource Development (PHRD) Fund to support the country’s agriculture sector.

The World Bank says funding for the SADP-II is meant to support increased adoption of climate smart technologies in Lesotho’s agriculture sector to enhance commercialisation as well as improve dietary diversity.
SADP is also financially supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
Sources at the SADP-II said all projects in the districts had ground to a halt.
No one is authorising the trips, the source said.

The project fleet has also been grounded.
“No one feels free to do anything. We just go to work so that we go back home,” the source said, adding: “That’s basically our job now.”
What this means, according to another source, is that the project will delay to use the funds until it is too late.

“You know what happens when there is no capacity to use the funds. The funders take the money back when the project time expires,” the source said.
“It has been happening with several projects where the government dillydallied until time expired and funds were returned to the financiers,” he said.

Mapesela said he had slapped the senior staff with “show cause” letters after they flouted recruitment procedures.
Those shown the door include the project director, Retšelisitsoe Pheko.
Pheko declined to comment when approached by thepost this week.
Mapesela said when the SADP Part I ended, the contracts for the staff also expired.

“So, this means before Part II could come into place, a new recruitment of the staff would have been made,” Mapesela said.
In this case, the minister argued that a proper recruitment process was not done.
He said no one has answered his letter as yet.

He said the positions would have been advertised in newspapers so that those interested and qualifying could apply.
“Those people have hired themselves there,” Mapesela said.
Mapesela said there should be “a fair and transparent practice for the SADP recruitment process”.

He said they are not even putting those in office under pressure but just that they should give clarity on how they have landed jobs at the Part II of the project.
He said it is not true that he wanted to replace the senior staff with his own people.

“I do not have my own people. People belong to God,’’ Mapesela said.
But the minister did not reveal what he would do to those who had not responded to the letters.
Another source said Mapesela gripe with the senior managers came after they demanded that he returns a Toyota Fortuner he had borrowed from the project.

The source said Mapesela had borrowed the vehicle from the project when his ministerial one broke down “but now when the owners want it back all of a sudden, they are written letters asking them to give reasons why they cannot be fired”.

“Their contracts for SADP-I expired between February and April but Mapesela is only chasing them now. Why has he been silent all along?”
Mapesela rejected the charges that he was fighting for the SADP cars.
“I am the minister accountable for all cars in my ministry,” he said.
“I can borrow or use any car in my ministry.”
“I could borrow a car from SADP or Wool and Mohair Promotion Project (WAMPP).”

He said no one should interfere with his work because those cars are accountable to his ministry.
“Those cars are not for those people. They are for the ministry,” Mapesela said.
Meanwhile, Mapesela is also locked up in a fierce fight with staff in the crops department over the procurement of tractors to plough fields during this summer cropping season.

He has instructed the director there to hire all tractors available in the country, as long as they have enough power to pull the plough.
But the director, according to a source, raised concerns that the government’s procurement regulations require that businesses and individuals getting government jobs must be tax compliant.
“The director’s concern was that he will be the one to answer difficult questions in the end if he pays someone or a business that does not meet legal requirements,” the source said.

However, Mapesela said he has asked tractor owners that they should take their tractors to the fields regardless of whether they have registered or not.
What we need as the ministry is to see fields ploughed and sown so that Basotho could have food at the end of the day, Mapesela said.
“Those who are against the tractors going to plough the land without being registered should not worry.”

“I have asked the tractor owners to drive by the roadside not on the road if the concern is that their tractors are unregistered,” he said, adding: “We need tractors in the fields ploughing the fields not on the roads.”

Majara Molupe

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