Police want BKB  to pay back levy

Police want BKB to pay back levy

MASERU – THE police want BKB, a South African wool broking firm, to account for every cent it collected from Basotho farmer as dipping levy.
The police are investigating allegations of corruption and fraud in the collection and use of the dipping levy.
The targets of that probe are BKB and the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association (LWMGA).
In a March 22 letter the Commercial Crimes Counter Unit’s Senior Inspector Makharilele asked BKB to explain how much it collected and how it distributed the funds.
BKB, which had been broking Lesotho’s wool and mohair for the past four decades, fell out with the government last year following allegations that the company was fleecing Basotho farmers and dodging tax.

The company vehemently denied the allegations, insisting that it doesn’t owe taxes and it is has been a loyal partner to local farmers.
But the government has persisted with the allegations and have denied the company a licence to auction Lesotho’s wool and mohair.
Now it appears the police have opened an investigation into the company’s collection of the dipping levy from local farmers.
Senior Inspector Makharilele is asking BKB to provide a “comprehensive report on the collection and use of the dippinglevy.”

He also wants details of the bank account in which the money was deposited. The LWMGA, which represents more than 40 000 farmers, is accused of changing the dipping collection method.
Last September the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Malefetsane Nchaka, asked the police to investigate how BKB and the LWMGA got their hands on the M15 million that was supposed to be collected by the government as dipping levy.
Nchaka alleged that in November 2003 the LNMWGA wrote to the director of Livestock Services requesting him to facilitate a transfer of dipping levy from the government’s account to the association’s account during the 2004 dipping season.

Nchaka said the association claimed the decision was made during the association’s Annual General Meeting held in Tšehlanyane in August 2003.
He said on November 10, 2004, the LNMWGA and the officials from the Department of Livestock Services agreed to transfer of dipping campaign activities to farmers under instructions from then Minister of Agriculture, the late Daniel Rakoro Phororo.
During 2006 the LNMWGA took full control of dipping.
“The dipping levy proceeds were deposited into LNMWGA’s bank account,” Nchaka said in his letter to the police.

He said following legal advice that the transfer of dipping levy to farmers was illegal the department reversed its previous decision and started collecting the dipping levy on its own.
He said that arrangement did not last long because in 2004 the farmers agreed that BKB should collect the levy.
“In August 2010, LNMWGA advised their broker (BKB) in Port Elizabeth to transfer dipping levy from government’s account into their account”.
The association has said the arrangement with BKB was necessary because the government was struggling to buy the dipping chemicals after collecting the levy from the farmers. The association argues that BKB was well positioned to collect the levy and hand it over to the association.

The government and the police believe this was illegal because regulations say the collection and use of the levy should be done by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Meanwhile, the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Small Business, Lerata Pekane, has provided more information about the dipping levy to the police.
In the savingram on 24th April, Pekane gave details of how much was collected from 2006 to 2007 and from 2015 to 2016.
The savingram shows that M4.8 million was collected in those years.
Pekane told the police that it is not easy for his ministry to provide information on the procurement of medicines because that is the responsibility of other government departments.

Majara Molupe

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