‘. . . move not linked to fraud allegations’
MASERU — Principal Secretary (PS) to the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, ‘Mathoriso Monaheng, has been transferred to the law ministry amid allegations of corruption amounting to M10 million levelled against her and Minister Molobeli Soulo.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Soulo and his PS have been accused of embezzling up to M10 million of public finds.
Meanwhile, Monaheng was on Monday re-posted to the Ministry of Law and Constitutional Affairs replacing ‘Masekhants’o Taeli who has since moved to cabinet.
Cabinet’s Economic Affairs PS, Sam Rapapa, confirmed Monaheng’s transfer but denied it was motivated by the allegations.
“I don’t believe that the issue of NAC (the National Aids Commission) allegations would be a cause for the transfer,” Rapapa said.
According to Rapapa, if the PS was suspected of any wrongdoing she would have been suspended pending investigations.
However, Rapapa confirmed to this paper that allegations of Soulo and Monaheng misappropriating M10 million from the Food Management Unit (FMU) and buying trucks from the proceeds thereof, had surfaced about four months ago.
“But because the FMU is answerable to my office and I am familiar with its operations, I found the allegations without basis and responded that the trucks in question could not have been bought,” Rapapa said.
“There are also no receipts and bank statements that I received as the signatory of the FMU and I have never seen or signed a cheque to the tune of M10 million.”
Rapapa said the story of the alleged purchase of trucks had since changed as he was now being told Soulo and Monaheng had “actually” misappropriated funds from the NAC account.
“I also did not believe the allegations regarding the misuse of NAC funds because the minister does not sign for the ministry’s bank accounts but the chief accounting officer does,” Rapapa said.
“Secondly, neither the minister, PS economic affairs nor PS administration signed for any NAC cheques since it was disbanded in 2011 because the commission had a board of directors managing its monies.”
As a matter of principle, the PS is the ministry’s chief accounting officer and final signatory to all of its expenses.
According to Rapapa, Mokhothu Makhalanyane from the Global Fund, one Puleng Lebitsa and a finance ministry officer were the signatories for the release of NAC monies “and not the minister or his PS”.
“But as PSs, myself particularly, we get all copies of NAC transactions,” Rapapa said.
Curiously, Rapapa said, since Soulo assumed office in June 2012 “there has never been any NAC transaction made”.
“Based on the reasons I’ve given you, there has to be some documentation to the effect that funds have been withdrawn from the NAC account,” Rapapa said.
Meanwhile, Rapapa also revealed that around the same time the allegations against Soulo and Monaheng surfaced, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) demanded all receipts on transactions made by the NAC.
“What I can confirm though is that about three months ago, the DCEO came here demanding receipts of NAC transactions which we gave to them,” Rapapa said.
He could, however, not disclose whether the revelation of the DCEO’s probe was proof the duo was being investigated.
“I can neither confirm nor deny that there are investigations against Soulo and Monaheng,” Rapapa said. “What I know is that I complied with the DCEO’s request.”
Rapapa said allegations levelled at Soulo are a smear campaign, especially as the party prepares for its leadership conference next month.
The ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC), the senior party in the tripartite coalition government with the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and the Basotho National Party (BNP), is set for a leadership conference on February 1, where a new leadership will be elected.
“This is a smear campaign by some people to spread rumours against Soulo ahead of the election,” Rapapa said.
However, DCEO’s Chief Information Officer, ‘Matlhokomelo Senoko, said she could neither confirm nor deny the duo was being investigated.
However, as a matter of practice, Senoko said, reports of corruption are taken to the reports centre then transferred to the investigations unit of the DCEO, therefore “that one may as well be stuck somewhere in the process”.
“If there is a case resulting from the investigations, then we take to it court,” Senoko said. “That’s the only time we are at liberty to speak to the media.”