Police blow M7m on torture victims

Police blow M7m on torture victims

MASERU – SKELETONS are tumbling out of cupboards at the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) as the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) digs in the records and grills senior officers for answers. In the spotlight is how the police have been using millions to pay damages to people who sue after being harassed, humiliated or tortured by the police.
According to the Auditor General’s report of 2014 the police paid a whopping M7 million in damages.

That figure could have grown significantly as the police continue to lose cases.
In some cases the police have failed to muster even a meek defence against the claims.
And even when they have strenuously defended themselves its victories have been far and in between, pointing to the fact that the police are indeed guilty of torturing suspects.
And the PAC is furious because the money to settle cases could have been used to improve the police’s welfare.

While the police have been paying millions of maloti in damages its stations remain dilapidated and the police have a dire lack of vehicles.
Police cells are beyond hovels and in some cases officers don’t have desks and chairs.
There is a dire lack of uniforms, stationery and other basic tools.

PAC chairman Selibe Mochoboroane was visibly angry as he quizzed the police over their crude interrogation methods that have triggered dozens of lawsuits and somewhat cemented the police’s reputation as a brutal force wantonly violating human rights.

Mochoboroane said he wanted to know why the police have not learned from its mistakes even after paying millions in damages and facing dozens of lawsuits from torture victims.
The PAC wanted to know why it has become part of the police’s “culture” to beat and torture suspects.
“Was this money given to you so that you could compensate people after beating them?” Mochoboroane quipped.

On the hot-seat was Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Seabata Tutuoane who seemed to grapple with the aggressive questions from the committee members.
ACP Tutuoane said they compensate the victims “for mistakes committed by the police under their scope of employment”.
He said the Police Directorate would pay on behalf of the police officers and then surcharge them.
ACP Tutuoane admitted that the damages were eating into the police service’s budget.

He however said there was now a marked decline in the number of lawsuits against the police.
The LMPS, he said, is now training officers to operate within the confines of the law.
The PAC has also stumbled upon a plethora of questionable transactions within the police.
For instance, there are no records on how the Police Directorate used M8.8 million.

Accountant Limpho Khoabane said they now have the records which were missing when the issue was raised during the 2012 audit.
She said they found the records last week but when the PAC examined them they discovered that they were not the right ones. The committee then ordered the police to bring the correct records showing how the M8.8 million was used.

“We want those documents showing how the money was disbursed,” Mochoboroane said.
There were also questions on how the Police Training College (PTC) used M1.7 million in 2012.
Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Tšeliso Moerane who was the administrator of the college at that time was there to face a barrage of questions from the committee.
ACP Moerane told the PAC that he was yet to check his records.

When the committee members came hard on him ACP Moerane said in 2012 he was the chief facilitator and had nothing to do with the equipment at PTC.
Likopo Mahase, the Khubetsoane MP, was not impressed and laid into ACP Moerane.
“The way the senior police are behaving affect those who are in the lower positions, that is why we have police who assault people,” Mahase said.
“It is because they are not happy and are stressed.”

“You are the main cause of all this and at the end of the day we have to allocate you funds so that you do all these things.”
“This is a very bad example.”

The PAC was also stunned by the missing furniture amounting to M41 000 at the Police Directorate.
Auditor General Lucy Liphafa in her report said there was no explanation given about the whereabouts of the furniture with chances that it might have been stolen or sold.
The acting police director, ’Mamolete Brown, said the furniture was found after the auditor had issued the report while the procurement officer ’Mifi Nteso said the furniture was bought in March 2012.

The Auditor General also discovered that the Police Directorate paid M25 000 to unregistered catering companies. Khoabane said she processed the payment because the company had done the job.

“But I have no idea about the tendering process, mine was only to do payment,” Khoabane said.
“The other thing I know is that the company called Bright Future had a licence.”

Nteso said the licence and the tax clearance were presented to him.
“We gave those people the tender because they had the needed requirements for the job,” he said.

Thooe Ramolibeli

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