First Lady’s  Office fails to pay suppliers

First Lady’s Office fails to pay suppliers

MASERU – THE Office of the First Lady has failed to pay some businesspeople who provided services during the Twelfth Stop Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer in Africa (SCCA) conference a year after the event.
First Lady, ’Maesaiah Thabane, hosted the conference in July last year, where First Ladies from across the African continent were present.

’Malibuseng Matubatuba, the founder of Tumisang Catering Company based in Mokhotlong, said the First Lady’s Office owes her M19 500.

She said she provided water and lunch at the conference.
Matubatuba said she was promised payment at least a week before the end of the conference but is yet to receive a cent up to now.

“The only explanation I got last year in November when I submitted my invoice to the Cabinet’s office was that the government was broke and I should wait for the 2019/2020 budget,” she said.

She said she followed up on the issue after the budget speech was presented in Parliament in March but was informed that “there was still a problem”.

“I am clueless how long that problem will last,” she said.
She said she worked with three of her employees and she had to pay them from her own pocket.

“I found it inappropriate to work with people and owe them their money for such a long time,” she said, adding that this has badly affected her cash flow.

“My business is struggling and I still want my money because I offered all services that were expected of me,” said Matubatuba.

She said she has been to the Maseru District Administrator (DA)’s office several times hoping the DA would intervene.

“He did all he could but all efforts were in vain,” she said.
“Since then, there is still nothing and all those responsible are not updating me about anything,” she said.

“I am still hoping that I will get my money because I can’t donate such an amount to the government yet I am still trying to find my feet in this industry,” she added.

Matubatuba said after the debacle she wouldn’t want to be involved in government tenders but the dire need for business means she has little choice but to continue seeking government contracts.
“I did not expect such painful consequences,” she said.

Another supplier, Sello Nonyana of Mafeteng, said he used his Sprinter bus for a road show to Mohale’s Hoek but to date the First Lady’s Office is yet to pay him his M1 900.

Nonyana said after the road show, the Mafeteng DA asked for an invoice, which he later claimed had been forwarded to the First Lady’s Office.

After some time, Nonyana said the DA asked him to send another invoice and he did.
He said he informed the DA that he had not been paid and that worried him.

He said a few days ago, the DA told him that he should speak to the Mafeteng MP, Temeki Tšolo, who also instructed him to send another invoice.

Nonyana said he has been working with the DA, who from the onset acted as the liaison person or middleman between him and the First Lady’s Office in Maseru.

“I did not know who he was working with in Maseru,” Nonyana said.
Nonyana said he has never visited the offices in Maseru because a colleague who offered a similar service had told him that he too was still to be paid despite making several visits to the office.

“I decided not to go after hearing of their struggles,” he said.
He said it was only last Thursday when the Principal Secretary of Cabinet, ’Mataeli Sekhantšo, explained why they were not paid.

He said he found her response to be valid after she said it was the first time the office had hosted such an event and it was “kind of difficult” for them.

He said her response was promising as she promised payment would be effected before the end of this month.
He said he would be happy to conduct more business with the government despite the payment delays because “mistakes are everywhere”.

“I would only fight if it was my first time working with the government but now that I know how they operate, I did not take it to heart,” he said.

He said he is still hopeful that he will get his money.
The First Lady’s spokesman, Silas Monyatsi, said the conference incurred extra expenses that they had not anticipated. He gave the example of the road show.

Monyatsi said the new system installed at the Finance Ministry to replace the Integrated Financial Management Institution System (IFMIS), might also have caused the payment delays.

“The issue is being addressed and they will end up being paid although we do not know the specific time as to when,” said Monyatsi.

He said the Ministry of Finance, in collaboration with cabinet, is working on the issue.
Cabinet Principal Secretary Sekhantšo declined to comment over the matter saying she does not talk to strangers when thepost approached her.

’Mapule Motsopa

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