Ministry grilled over school feeding cash

Ministry grilled over school feeding cash

MASERU – THE Public Accounts Committee is livid that money meant to feed children from poor families was lost under questionable circumstances.
The committee has in recent weeks been combing reports by the Auditor General that unearthed scandalous and questionable transactions in government ministries and departments during the past decade.

On Tuesday, members of the committee grilled officials from the Ministry of Education and Training over M564 000 lost to Boliba Savings and Credit account back in 2012.
The money was for the School Feeding Programme under the Ministry of Education in Leribe.
The committee discovered that two transactions, one for M365 000 and another for M564 000, were conducted by the same person as shown by the paper trail.
Yet, when its bankers made a follow up, the ministry claimed it was unaware of the M564 000 transfer from its account, suggesting that the money had vanished.
Boliba Savings and Credit secretary ‘Maposholi Mosothoane, who was the chairperson of the bank at the time of the transactions, said the bank demanded answers from the ministry over the M564 000 transfer.

She said the ministry told them that “they had no idea”.
Mosothoane told the committee that the bank failed to get satisfactory responses from the ministry despite that the money had been moved from the ministry’s account.
“The other problem that we identified was that the name of the person that the money was transferred to, was not their client,” she said.

Asked why he had his signature on two instruction letters, Teboho Moneri, who was an official in the ministry at the time of the transactions, claimed he had done adequate due diligence.
The committee said it was “punch-drunk” that there was an account that existed “in the air” and the ministry had actually transferred money to that ghost account.
Moneri came under pressure from the parliamentary committee members to provide details regarding the transfer of the funds.
He struggled for answers throughout the hearing.

Members of the committee were not convinced and accused Moneri of sleeping on the job.
Nyapane Kaya, a member of the PAC said evidence brought before the committee showed that Moneri was not doing his work as expected.
“Ntate Moneri this means you have become ‘where do I sign’ and this is not good. It is your duty to verify your work before you attach your signature to it,” he said.
The Principal Secretary for Basic Education, Tieho ‘Mamasiane, described the questionable transaction as “embarrassing”.
He said the revelation had spurred him to roll up his sleeves to fight corruption.

The Principal Secretary of Higher Education Dr Thabang Lebese said he heard of similar “insidious fraud” in the school feeding programme in 2010.
“I promise the committee that we are going to do the investigations until we find the root cause of all this,” Dr Lebese said.
The committee asked the ministry to put its house in order and fulfill its promise to fight corruption.

Thooe Ramolibeli

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