Officials fail to account for M10.3 million

Officials fail to account for M10.3 million

MASERU – ONLY M1.5 million out of the M19 million that was given to the Ministry of Sports for the COSAFA Games in 2013 can be accounted for, thepost heard last week.
Of the total M19 million, M9.5 million was accounted for by the Local Organising Committee (LOC) because the ministry’s officials did not have influence in its procurement and expenditure decisions.

Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) found that the LOC was made up of 11 sports personalities and leaders who were not working for the government.
Lioli president Lebohang Thotanyana, who is also a prominent figure in the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party, was the LOC chairman.
Khiba Mohoanyane, the executive secretary for the Lesotho Sports and Recreation Commission (LSRC), was his deputy.

The only employee of the ministry was Sephookoana Moholoholo who was the LOC’s administrative secretary with no executive decisions.
The PAC found that the ministry’s officials had no access to the M9.5 million because it was transferred directly to the LOC account – all they had to do was to approve payments to service providers.

Thotanyana provided the PAC with a dossier that detailed how the money was used. The dossier even included what meals were ordered and paid for in all hotels they were accommodated.
“This file gives you a breakdown of all the items we paid for even to the last cent,” Thotanyana, who is also an accountant by profession and practice, told the PAC.
As for the ministry’s officials, they had a tough time explaining how the remaining M10.3 million, (except its M1.5 million) which was in their direct control, was used.
But even with this M1.5 million, there was a cloud of doubt after a PAC member Sam Rapapa showed that the officials’ claims that they paid Maseru Avani Hotel for accommodation and meals were untrue.

Rapapa read a message from the hotel showing that they were still waiting for payment, five years after it provided services to the ministry’s COSAFA guests.
The acting director of sports, ’Manneria Rabotšo, conceded that the hotel no longer wants to provide services to the ministry because of the debt.
However, before Rapapa brought the PAC’s attention to the hotel’s concerns Rabotšo and the ministry’s accountant, ’Malitšila Phafoli, insisted that part of the M1.5 million was paid to the hotel.
PAC chairman, Selibe Mochoboroane, said it is possible that there will be several service providers who will soon come forward to say they had not been paid despite the officials’ claims.

The PAC heard that the ministry had under-budgeted for the COSAFA Games because the then South Africa Sports Minister, Fikile Mbalula, had verbally promised that he would donate M10 million to Lesotho to be able to host the tournament.
Rabotšo, Phafoli and the Deputy Principal Secretary, ’Mabataung Khalane, who was then the Director of Infrastructure, said they had budgeted for only M10 million with the hope that Mbalula would honour his promise.

When South Africa told them at the eleventh hour that it was not legally possible to do that, they asked the Ministry of Finance to give them M10.3 million.
The first funds, not exactly M10 million but M9.5 million were not under their control as they had already been deposited into the LOC account.
The M10.3 million was deposited into the Sports Department’s account with instructions that it would not be passed to the LOC “because this one was from the government’s contingent fund and the ministry had to account for it directly”.

It is this fund that they failed to account for.
“We want that money back or else you present a clear picture how it has been used,” Mochoboroane said.
“We are failing to understand how you have used the money because according to the Auditor General’s Report, you were given M10 million twice by the Ministry of Finance, can you make it clear?”

He said the ministry should give the PAC documentary evidence showing how the money was used.
Palo Leteetee, another PAC member, became furious asking the ministry to stop dillydallying and playing games.
“They know very well where the money is, they know and they just want to waste our time,” Leteetee said.

Leteete said it is unacceptable that when the ministry requested the money from Parliament, it did so in writing but failed to document how they had used the money.
As the hearing became tense, Mochoboroane said they had asked lots of questions on the same topic but their tactics were like groping in the dark.
He said it was clear that the ministry officials had misused the funds.

The staff tried blaming the late Dr Majara Molapo, who was the principal secretary at that time, but Mochoboroane told them that they were hands on and they have more information than Majara would have. On several occasions, Rabotšo could not answer questions about the money and kept referring the PAC to Phafoli, who is the accountant.
Both Rabotšo and Phafoli ended up saying they could not answer some of the questions and referred the PAC to their bosses, substantive directors who were said to be abroad on business trips.
Mochoboroane adjourned the hearing until Friday when the substantive directors will be available.

Thooe Ramolibeli

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