- New board says Khasipe is innocent till proven guilty
THE new board of the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) has re-instated Commissioner General, Thabo Khasipe, almost 10 months after he was suspended on allegations of misconduct over his alleged failure to submit tax returns.
Mr Khasipe, who was appointed to the plum job in December 2016, was suspended shortly thereafter on 6 February 2017, over the misconduct charges. He subsequently appeared before the Magistrates’ Court in Maseru on 10 February 2017 to face tax evasion charges.
According to the charge sheet, Mr Khasipe faces eight counts of failing to file tax returns to the LRA from the fiscal year 2006/2007 to 2012/13.
However, the new LRA board which was appointed last month by Finance Minister, Moeketsi Majoro, has resolved to reinstate Mr Khasipe because, among other reasons, there was no evidence which justified an internal investigation into his conduct. As such Mr Khasipe had not been subjected to any internal disciplinary processes with any tangible outcomes long after his suspension, a clear violation of his rights.
The board said its decision was also arrived on the basis that he remained innocent until proven guilty in the court case that was brought against him.
Mr Khasipe- a chartered financial analyst- previously worked for the LRA as deputy commissioner-general from 2004 to 2007 before being appointed Lesotho’s ambassador to Kuwait.
His reinstatement comes amid internal turmoil in the LRA characterized by low staff morale and internal squabbles, partly blamed on the revenue collection authority’s failure to meet its revenue collection target for the last fiscal year.
Mr Khasipe’s suspension had plunged the LRA into a period of chaos as reports suggested that the disposed boss was blaming his demise on his predecessor, Realeboha Mathaba, who had held the position in an acting capacity. Advocate Mathaba, in press interviews then, refuted allegations that he had been behind Mr Khasipe’s demise because he was also interested in getting the position on a substantive basis. Reports said the feud between the two had filtered down to the lower ranks of the revenue authority impacting adversely on the core work of the LRA.
The new LRA board comprises of seven members namely, chairperson Robert Likhang, Advocate Lindiwe Sephomolo, Tšireletso Mojela, Libako Leisanyane, Bohlale Phakoe, Chabeli Ramolise and Lefu Mokaoane.
Mr Likhang told the Sunday Express in a recent interview that his new board had met on 14 December 2017 and unanimously resolved to reinstate the suspended Commissioner General Khasipe.
“Mr Khasipe was suspended pending investigations on his alleged misconduct regarding his tax matters. The board found no ground to proceed with internal investigations and subsequent disciplinary hearings.
“Mr Khasipe however, had been charged by the Director of Public Prosecution and judgement is still pending in court. The board advised itself that further action, if necessary, shall only be taken upon decisions of the courts. The principle in law is that one is innocent until proven guilty and as the board we respect that, and it would be injustice to treat Mr Khasipe as if he were guilty especially as the internal processes to find him guilty or not did not proceed as no evidence could be put together against him.”
Mr Likhang also reaffirmed the LRA board’s confidence in Mr Khasipe’s abililty to lead the organisation which missed its revenue collection target for the 2016/17 financial year.
“The LRA Board is charged by the Honourable Minister (Dr Majoro) to bring the institution to its former glory, and it believes that Mr Khasipe will be instrumental in achieving the set goal.
“Mr Khasipe was part of the first management of the LRA in its glory days, and he has massive experience in the tax collection field. He started as commissioner of Customs and Excise and was later promoted to Deputy Commissioner General.”
He said the board and management would embark on a radical strategic planning process which shall incorporate the views of staff, taxpayers and other stakeholders.
That process, he added, would be followed by the creation of new appropriate structures and systems that would promote efficiency in tax filing and collection.
“The board is aware of the declining reputation of the organisation and it is working hard to ensure that voluntary filing and payments of appropriate taxes,” Mr Likhang said, adding, a collaborative rather than offensive approach would be employed.
He said awareness programmes would be increased and taxpayers will be made aware of bodies such as the Tax Tribunal in the event of conflict.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Majoro noted the board decision, saying it came at a time when the LRA needed a strong leader to steer the organisation forward.
He further noted it was an “injustice” on the part of Mr Khasipe to continue to be out of work due to the dragging court case which has already taken close to a year with little progress.