COMMISSIONER of Cooperatives in Lesotho, ‘Maphaloli Lekoetje, has come out guns blazing against the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee accusing it of relying on gossip for its business.
This came out in the court documents of a case where Ms Lekoetje wants the High Court to interdict the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) from interrogating her on the ongoing court proceedings in which she is challenging the findings and recommendations of an audit firm engaged by the Ministry of Small Business Development, Marketing and Cooperatives to audit Cooperative Lesotho.
The audit firm, Letuka Accounting Firm of Chartered Accountants (LETACC), was engaged by the ministry to carry out a forensic audit on the Ministry and Cooperatives Lesotho.
The “dateless” forensic report implicated Ms Lekoetje and in March 2017, she challenged the findings and recommendations of the report in the high court. She also challenged the manner in which the firm was engaged by the Ministry. The case is still pending in the courts.
Despite the ongoing court case, the PAC interrogated Ms Lekoetje over the issues raised in the LETACC forensic report. Ms Lekoetje, together with her colleagues from the Ministry of Small Business Development, Marketing and Cooperatives, appeared before the PAC on 11 October 2018.
The ministry is scheduled to reappear before the committee tomorrow. Ms Lekoetje however, wants the High Court to grant her permission not to honour tomorrow’s meeting, arguing that the PAC proceedings were purely based on gossip which falls outside the perimeters of the law and the entire scheme of the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act No 8 of 1994, Standing Orders and Regulations.
In her founding affidavit, Ms Lekoetje said she had appeared before the PAC for several years and that the past PACs were headed by dignified people, “not the caliber of the present PAC that digress into gossips”.
“I was interrogated over gossips that the Ministry of Finance is supposed to provide internal auditors to audit the cooperatives and I am refusing to absorb them for purposes of carrying out their functions for and on behalf of the cooperatives,” Ms Lekoetje said in the court papers.
“I told them that Cooperatives Societies Amendment of 2014 provides that accredited auditors be tasked to audit the cooperatives, not officers from the Ministry of Finance. The whole committee of legislators were arguing that the law I was citing was bad and that I should agree to their demand to source auditors from the Ministry of Finance contrary to what the law provides. With greatest respect I disagreed.”
She added: “It is accordingly my view that while it is apparent that they are zealous MPs, this present PAC is a recipe for disaster to this country because it relies on gossips and has no direction to an extent that they ended up questioning why I was appointed the Commissioner in 2005.”
Ms Lekoetje also wants the High Court to prohibit the PAC from proceeding with the enquiry over the forensic report of LETACC pending the finalisation of the ongoing court case in which she is challenging the report’s findings and recommendations.
Clerk of National Assembly, PAC Chairperson, Cooperative Lesotho, Ministry of Small Business Development, Cooperative and Marketing, LETACC and Attorney General are cited as first to sixth respondents.
“Kindly take notice that the application will be made before this honourable court on behalf of the applicant on the 22nd October 2018…for an order in the following terms:
“The second respondent shall not be interdicted and prohibited from proceedings with the enquiry over the forensic report of LETACC pending finalisation of this matter. The Proceedings of the second respondent scheduled for 22nd October 2018 involving the applicant (Ms Lekoetje) shall not be stayed and suspended pending finalisation of this matter.
“The summoning of the applicant and her appearance before PAC shall not be suspended pending finalisation of this matter. That the Clerk of National Assembly or anyone responsible be ordered to dispatch the record of proceedings involving applicant to this court after seven days of receipt of this application or order,” the court papers read.
Ms Lekoetje also wants the High Court to review, correct and set aside as irregular, null and void and of no force and effect the PAC’s interrogation on the decision not to engage or source the auditors from the Ministry of Finance to do internal auditing of the Cooperative Lesotho, participating in the decision-making process of discontinuing the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) initiative of sponsoring cooperatives.
She also wants the High Court to issue an order declaring that the PAC has no jurisdictional facts to enquire into the forensic report and matters therein arising in view of the principle sub-judice by reason of pending court cases.
Ms Lekoetje also wants the High Court to issue “an order reviewing and setting aside the decision of the PAC to incorporate the forensic audit report of LETACC into the scope of its mandate as irregular”.
“An order declaring that the decision of PAC to enquire into the forensic report in issue violates the procedural and constitutional rights of applicant to a fair hearing of her cases before judiciary contrary to the principle of separation of powers,” read the papers.
Ms Lekoetje’s lawyer, Advocate Christopher Lephuthing, did not mince his words as well, saying “there is a necessary need to prevent wrongs that cannot otherwise be addressed if Hon Mochoboroane and his misguided committee continue to conduct an enquiry over matters seized with the High Court of Lesotho”.
The interdict case is expected to be heard tomorrow.