PAC wants pension  officials  investigated

PAC wants pension officials investigated

MASERU – THE Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has called for a thorough internal audit at the Pensions Department amid fears the fund was losing millions of maloti through dubious payments. In a scathing report handed to Parliament last week, the PAC said officials who are managing the Old Age Pension Scheme must also be subjected to a lifestyle audit to find the extent of the rot.

The committee says the audit must be extended to even their relatives, girlfriends, boyfriends, concubines, and friends.
“The Committee raised a concern that maladministration of OAP (Old Age Pension Scheme) has resulted in huge loss of government funds,” the report reads in part.
“It was discovered that under the leadership of Mr Thabo Ramochela corruption is rife within the section whereby officers deliberately engaged into unethical practices.”
The report said pensioners who had died a long time ago have continued to be paid their old age pensions.

The committee says it was informed that some officials were benefiting from the payments of dead pensioners.
“The Ministry (of Finance) had neither exact figures nor estimations of the lost funds in this scheme,” the report reads.
For instance, the committee found that dead pensioners Motlatsi Mothae, ‘Mahlopheho Makashane, Makhala Likoekoe, Phepheng Ralienyane, Seapehi Makatjane and ‘Mamoeletsi Thoola were still being paid.

Seven officials, Mahlape Thaanyane, Retšelisitsoe Khethisa, Moahloli Paseka, Rahaba Lebeko, Pontšo Lephatsa, Limpho Ranthake and Limakatso Tšilo were interrogated in connection with the payments to “ghost” pensioners.

“They acknowledged this breach of law but responded that they did it because the names of the deceased pensioners were still on the payroll,” the report reads.
“They indicated that the payroll was not updated regularly.”The parliamentary committee which is chaired by Selibe Mochoboroane also found that some officials had decided to abandon the use of cash boxes when paying elderly pensioners but used their own handbags.

It also suspects that some pension officials were working in cahoots with criminals to stage robberies in which millions of maloti meant for pensions was stolen.
In Maputsoe M1.6 million was stolen, in Mafeteng M3.2 million, while in Hlotse M380 700 was stolen. M3.2 million was stolen in Roma.

Evidence led before the committee regarding how robberies were executed led it to suspect that the robberies were being orchestrated with the help of pension office officials.
The report says the head of security at post offices, one Adams, had agreed with the PAC that it was an inside job.
The PAC has since asked the Finance Ministry Principal Secretary, Motena Tšolo, and the investigating bodies, the police and the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO), to make a follow up regarding the status of the cases.

At the Roma Post Bank five suspects, Sekhoane Mosamo, Tšeliso Mareka, Lehlohonolo ’Mote, Keketso Mosamo and Kulehle Mokhitli were arrested, charged and remanded in the Maseru magistrate’s court.

The cases are still pending in court.
In Mafeteng, father and son Thabiso and Teboho Mahase were arrested and remanded in the magistrate’s court.

For Hlotse and Maputsoe there are no suspects as yet and the cases are still under investigation.
The PAC recommended that the court must accelerate the investigations into the robbery cases at Roma and Mafeteng within 60 days.

It also recommends that the police investigations must be completed within 60 days for Hlotse and Maputsoe.
It says officials who drew the funds days before the payday must face disciplinary measures.
There are 10 other cases which the PAC says the police and the DCEO must expedite in the Pensions Unit.

Staff Reporter

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