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MASERU — An internal probe has found Kubutu Makhakhe, the principal secretary for administration in the prime minister’s office, guilty of seven of the 10 corruption-related charges he was facing.
But Makhakhe will not lose his job because the disciplinary panel recommended that instead of being fired he should be reassigned to another position in the government.
It said because Makhakhe was guilty of the majority of the charges he “should be reassigned to another post in the public service that will remove him from responsibility over procurement processes and also from being the chief accounting officer with overall supervising responsibilities”.
Makhakhe however says he will appeal the decision because he wants to have a clean record.
He was suspended in February after a forensic audit into the prime minister’s office revealed he had approved transactions that benefited two companies with links to his wife, Mathungthung Makhakhe (Mrs Makhakhe).
The investigation also led to the suspension of four other senior department officials who are however yet to face a disciplinary hearing.
Thato Masiloane, Makhakhe’s deputy, ’Marapelang Raphuthing, the finance director and two other procurement officers, ’Manthabeleng Shai and Lerato Moerane, are also being charged for alleged corruption related to awarding of tenders in the department.
Makhakhe’s charges emanated from two separate transactions that the department had with Ntsepeng Suppliers and Botle Business Furniture, companies which the investigators said were owned by his wife.
Makhakhe approved a M29 870 payment for Ntsepeng Suppliers and a M14 000 payment for Botle Business Furniture.
The department had bought stationery from the two companies.
On all counts Makhakhe was alleged to have breached provisions of the Code of Good Practices 2005 which regulate the conduct of civil servants.
The disciplinary panel appointed by government secretary Tlohang Sekhamane was chaired by Monehela Posholi, the chief executive of the Lesotho Communications Authority.
Sekhamane, who suspended Makhakhe and his four colleagues, was the complainant.
The verdict was delivered on Wednesday afternoon after three sessions.
Makhakhe was facing 10 charges in all — six related to Ntsepeng Suppliers and four to Botle Business Furniture.
On Ntsepeng Suppliers, Mkhakhe was accused of failing to declare his financial interest in the transaction as well as failing to withdraw from the department’s “evaluating team and process” that approved the tenders for the two companies.
He was also charged with failing to lead by example, bringing the civil service into disrepute and failure to “diligently and impartially” perform his duties.
The sixth charge was that he had failed to serve the people of Lesotho “with respect and promote their welfare and lawful interests”.
On the Botle transaction Makhakhe was also charged with failing to declare his interest and lead by example.
He was also accused of failing to serve the “welfare and lawful interests” of Basotho.
The fourth charge was that he had failed to perform his duties with “diligence and impartiality”.
The panel found Makhakhe guilty of all but three of those 10 counts.
Posholi relied on evidence that showed that the postal address and phone number on the invoices that Makhakhe approved belonged to his wife.
During the hearing Makhakhe admitted that the contact details on the invoices belonged to his wife.
He however argued that the handwriting on the invoices did not belong to his wife and claimed the details might have been used by someone else without his or his wife’s knowledge.
But Posholi said the mere fact that Makhakhe had failed to notice that his wife’s details were on the invoices means he had failed to be diligent, impartial, lead by example and serve the lawful interests of Basotho with respect.
“Any signs of irregularity that may lead to conflict of interest or perceived favouritisim, such as the wife’s cellular phone number and postal address of oneself on supporting documentation (invoices), should be questioned to guard against compromising on the required impartiality,” Posholi ruled.
He said by approving the transactions with such glaring anomalies Makhakhe did “not demonstrate best endeavours on his part and certainly not a good example to others, including but not limited to, his subordinates in the ministry (prime minister’s office)”.
Makhakhe’s decision to sign the documents with his wife’s details had brought his integrity into question and cast “some shadow on the image of the public service”.
Because of his oversight, Posholi ruled, Makhakhe had brought the public service into disrepute.
By being negligent in his attention to detail Makhakhe had failed to respect and serve the interest of Basotho and was therefore guilty of that charge, he said.
On the charges that he failed to declare his interest and withdraw from the tender process that benefitted the two companies Posholi found Makhakhe not guilty.
He said although the invoices contained Mrs Makhakhe’s contact details that alone was not enough to conclusively link her to the companies.
Posholi reasoned that the only way Sekhamane could have proven the link beyond reasonable doubt was to bring documents from the Registry of Companies showing Mrs Makhakhe as the director of the two companies.
A record of the companies’ board minutes or bank details showing Mrs Makhakhe’s name could have sufficed as evidence to prove the link.
In an effort to prove the link Sekhamane had produced a copy of Makhakhe’s marriage certificate during the hearing.
But Posholi said even this was not enough to conclusively prove that the companies were linked to Makhakhe’s wife.
Makhakhe told the Sunday Express on Thursday he was going to challenge the ruling.
“I have to challenge the verdict because if I leave it like that it will damage my reputation,” Makhakhe said.
He also complained that he had not been given the forensic audit report that led to his charges.