Senate wants MPs to  repay loans

Senate wants MPs to repay loans

MASERU – THE Senate wants MPs who took out interest-free loans to repay the money, thepost heard this week.
Senate Clerk, Selete Molete, told thepost that the Senate is on the verge of sending parliamentary loans petition report to stakeholders including petitioners, Finance Minister and parliamentary affairs committees.

Molete said the Minister of Finance should now work out a timeframe for the repayment of the loans by those who were MPs in the past two parliaments.
The decision by the Senate comes almost a year after unemployed tertiary graduates petitioned parliament demanding action against MPs who had failed to repay about M500 000 they received as loans.

Molete said new loans will only be issued to those who would have settled their debts.
“We should set an example by paying our debts. After all, the nation at large is not happy with MPs for not paying their loans. They even chant ‘Pay back our money’,” said Molete.
“It was a petition therefore petitioners will get their report,” he said.

Unemployed graduates complained after the government wrote-off M43.54 million owed by members of the 9th Parliament, whose term of office prematurely ended in June last year.
They described the write-off as a scheme to legalise corruption.

The MPs were awarded the M500 000 interest-free loans by local banks as part of their benefits, and were supposed to repay the money over five years starting from March 2015.
However, the MPs’ terms ended prematurely after the March 2017 parliamentary no-confidence vote on the then Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, which led to June’s general polls.
The government underwrote the loans and also paid interest on the MPs’ behalf.

Molete attributed delays in dealing with the issue to the change in governments since 2015.
“The committees change with governments,” he said.

Molete said that in the future, MPs will get lesser amounts in loans to make it easier for them to repay the money.
“They have to pay before five years,” Molete said.

The unemployed graduates said the government should write off scholarship debts owed by the graduates to the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) if it insists on paying loans for MPs.

They handed the petition to Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki in September last year.
Lephallo Mohapi, who spoke on behalf of the marchers, said the government must heed the cry of the unemployed graduates.

Mohapi said graduates are suffering irrespective of their political affiliation and status. He pleaded with the government to take a closer look at their challenges.
According to Mohapi, the NMDS expects the loans to be paid back even when the graduates have not yet secured jobs. As long as the loans remain unpaid the students cannot further their studies.
He said the NMDS can only sponsor a student for further studies only after they have repaid their tuition loans, a situation he said was disadvantaging unemployed graduates.
This happens irrespective of whether they are being sponsored by other bodies other than the NMDS.

Nkheli Liphoto

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