MASERU — A former employee of Skillshare International Lesotho has accused the organisation of spending thousands of maloti on “useless workshops” and administrative issues instead of helping disabled people it would have used to get donor support.
Ivan Breinholt Leth, a Danish national who worked for the organisation for seven years as a business consultant before he was fired for going AWOL late last year, said Skillshare uses most of the donor money on workshops.
Skillshare International on its website says it is an organisation that works on reducing “poverty, injustice and inequality and to further economic and social development in partnership with people and communities throughout the world”.
But Leth claims last year funds were spent on workshops, meetings, administration, salaries, advocacy “and a very strange study tour to Tanzania” for managers and staff from partner organisations.
According to Leth, 75 percent of Skillshare’s funds came from the European Union (EU) while the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare contributed 10 percent which was meant to improve the living standard of people with disabilities.
Leth, however, alleged only five percent went towards projects for people with disabilities.
He claimed he had “inside information” because he was a member of the people with disabilities project implementation committee.
Leth said the ministry was merely a “fig leaf” that Skillshare International needed to get funding from the EU.
He said for the current financial year the EU has donated €679 500.
The problem however, Leth said, was that Skillshare allegedly engaged a company owned by its senior member from the United Kingdom to run a series of workshops instead of using the funds for the benefit of disabled people.
“Particularly the vast number of workshops was a nuisance to most of the participants,” Leth said.
“We were all forced to take part in the workshops but we never really realised the relevance of it.
“Why was I, as a consultant, forced to take part in a management workshop?
“Even the driver of the project did not take orders from me.
“Fortunately I did not sign the paper (of workshop attendance) . . . This paper apparently was documentation to the EU so that the funds could be released.”
Leth said the workshops were carried out by a “so-called Skillshare International spin-off company based in Leicester in the UK”.
“The manager of this company is an old Skillshare crony, who worked for Skillshare International for quite a number of years,” he said.
“When they have a big project with a big donor involved this consultant will travel down to Africa and hold a number of useless workshops so that some of the funds can stay at the Skillshare International headquarters in Leicester.
“In one week this consultant received the equivalent of my total annual allowance.”
“On one occasion,” continued Leth, “I saw the figure R70 000 for a three-day workshop. On top of that he received a travel grant and local accommodation in Maseru.”
Leth alleged that for the current financial year the “so-called SKI spin-off company in Leicester” reaped about M1.2 million from workshops conducted in Lesotho.
“That is 13 percent of the budget total,” he said.
“This amount of money is exclusive of travel expenses and hotel bills for the consultants.
“Totally a little over R2m is earmarked for workshops, meetings and seminars – ie 23 percent of the budget total.
“Only five percent of the budget total goes directly to poor, disabled people.”
He said some workers had left the organisation because of poor management.
However, Skillshare’s Lesotho programme director ’Makholu Matete told the Sunday Express that Leth was making the allegations only because he was fired.
She said Leth was a bitter man.
Matete said Leth was the only one who was fired from Skillshare while other disability project workers left after finding new jobs.
“Ivan is bitter and his letter shows the kind of person he is,” she said.
Matete said all the money they use for any purpose is budgeted for.
“Our main donor, the EC (European Community), strictly requires financial reports every month and we cannot have a chance to deviate some of the funds,” she said.
“We are audited by independent auditors every year and if we used some of the funds for purposes other than those agreed upon I think the EC could have stopped funding our projects.”
Matete said there was nothing wrong with the arrangement that Skillshare’s special workshops are facilitated by the head office in Leicester.
She said their boss in Leicester often comes down to Africa not merely because he is top management but because he is an expert in the field of disability projects management.
Matete also said other consultants were invited to take part in the training.
“Even I sometimes get involved in some of the training workshops in the southern African region because of my training and experience,” she said.
“Recently I was invited to conduct research in Botswana and sometimes we invite Batswana to come to Lesotho to help us in some of the projects.”