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. . . As former boss denies creating mess

Staff Reporter

MASERU — Karabo Mabote, who was the acting director of the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) for four years before his dismissal in August, says he has nothing to do with the mess at the organisation.
There are suspicions within the NMDS and the finance ministry that the current chaos over student allowances could be a result of the deals that he allegedly stitched when he was the acting director.
The renewed interest in Mabote’s reign was triggered by revelations last week that 500 Basotho students studying in South Africa were stranded because a middleman who runs their residences has not forwarded the rental money he got from the Lesotho government to the owners of the properties.
Bothatha Mahlala, the middleman at the centre of the fiasco, has since denied that the government paid him in full.
He says the government still owes him about a million maloti and insists that claims that he has been overpaid for the past three years are false.
There was no written agreement between the NMDS and Mahlala, a situation that has led to some in the finance ministry to suspect there could have been some shady dealings under Mabote’s leadership.
They argue that even if there was no corruption, it was irresponsible of Mabote to allow the NMDS to pay millions of maloti to a person without a binding contract.
Mabote however told the Sunday Express that all he wanted was for the NMDS to leave him alone because he no longer worked there.
“They are just looking for a sacrificial lamb,” Mabote said in an interview on Friday night.
Mabote and his deputy were suspended on February 13 2009 before they were fired in August.
Chief among the long list of allegations against him was that he had flouted regulations.
Mabote said all the problems the NMDS had experienced this year were not of his making.
“It’s their baby. Anything that has happened this year is their problem,” said Mabote, who worked at the NMDS for 14 years.
“How come there were no problems with the rentals in South Africa when I was there?”
He said part of the problem was that when he was fired together with his deputy they were not given a chance to hand over the operations.
“For all the months that I was on suspension the organisation was running itself,” Mabote said.
“How could they have not expected the situation to be this bad?
“It shaped itself in the direction that it wanted because there was no one to shape it.”
He said Mahlala was just one of the many people who were providing accommodation to Basotho students studying in South Africa.
Mabote said he was not the one who brought Mahlala into the picture.
“There was no hard and fast arrangement on that issue,” he said.
“The students were the ones who decided where they wanted to live and all we did was to give them a confirmation letter.
“After that the agent would give us an invoice and we would pay.
“How come the rentals were paid on time?
“This is just their problem.”
One of the major reasons, Mabote said, for the NMDS’s perennial problems was the lack of political will.
“The NMDS council which drives policy was only recently appointed,” he said.
“The NMDS had gone for 26 years without a council.
“Surely how can an organisation so central to society run for all those years without a policy-making body?”
He said for the 14 years he worked at the NMDS “four or five consultants had been hired to do studies but their recommendations were never implemented”.
“The reason is that there is no political will,” he said.

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