Mines official fails to collect royalties

Mines official fails to collect royalties

MASERU – THE Commissioner of Mining Phehello Tjatja failed to collect royalties from mining companies after he could not distinguish between mining royalties and diamond sales tax, thepost heard this week. The stunning revelation was disclosed to Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Selibe Mochoboroane during a hearing this week.
Tjatja begged for forgiveness from Mochoboroane saying the mistake was not deliberate.
The PAC was shocked.

“As the committee we are very much concerned about the loss of revenue our country is having, mostly at this time when our country has financial problems,” Mochoboroane said.
“We are losing millions and millions of maloti due to this, so please go and rectify these problems.”
The chief whip, Likopo Mahase, said he could not be consoled.

“Diamonds (are) not planted, the more (they are) taken away, the more (they are) getting finished, and in a few years to come we will be having no diamond(s) at all,” said Mahase.
The PAC’s questions were based on the finding of the Auditor General Lucy Liphafa who found that since the year 2013 the royalties as well as the diamond sales were never collected.
According to ’Malebohang Ntšohi from the office of Auditor General, in 2013 when they were to do the report the Ministry of Mining said the mines had paid M27 million of royalties but they never found the supporting documents for that money.

“In their financial statements they give us every year, the figures of the amount of money were not the same as the ones they said the mines had given to them,” Ntšohi said.
“We have tried to take those pieces together and count the money which they said it was there but we never found it.
“So, to our understanding we believed that the money was never transferred to the books of the government,” she said.

Ntšohi said the M27 million was never found from the documents that mining companies gave them that is why they say this ministry is not collecting the royalties.
When the PAC wanted to know the reasons which led the Ministry of Mining not to collect the 15 percent of royalties and the 10 percent diamond sales tax, Tjatja said he did not know the difference between royalties and diamond sales tax.

“In my understanding as the commissioner, I thought that was one and the same thing,” Tjatja said.
“I was only collecting the 10 percent diamond sales tax, not considering the royalties,” he said.
“But now that the committee has made me aware, I will talk to the legal officer about this issue.”

The Principal Secretary of Mining, Ntahli Matete, said this was a mistake which the ministry was not aware of.
“We will try to rectify all the mistakes that the committee has made us aware of so that in the future we will not repeat them,” Matete said.
The chairperson for PAC said the Auditor General had also revealed that Letšeng Diamond had underpaid its royalties.

Thooe Ramolibeli

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