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Duo busted over ghost workers

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MASERU –– Two employees of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare are facing trial for allegedly defrauding M126 000 from the ministry through a clandestine scheme to pay bogus workers.

Mpolai Mopeli and Nt’saleli Morojele appeared at the Maseru Magistrate’s Court last week.

The prosecution says the two were allegedly siphoning money by paying ghost workers.

The two were employed in the expenditure office at Queen Elizabeth II Hospital.

The offence allegedly took place between May 2007 and June 2008.

According to the prosecution, the accused misrepresented to the treasury department by submitting names of people who they claimed were government employees.

The duo, who worked as accountants at the hospital, pleaded not guilty to the charge before presiding magistrate Molemo Monethi.

The prosecution produced documents showing that some of the payment vouchers were made fraudulently.

During the hearing the state called witness ‘Mamotlatsi Lipholo, who was an assistant accountant at the hospital and had worked with the accused.

Lipholo, who now works as an accountant at the Mafeteng Magistrates’ Court, said she worked in the salaries office with the accused and one Lomile November.

She told the court the cheques for staff were kept in a safe whose original key was kept by November.

She said when November went on sick leave they borrowed a duplicate key for the safe from a senior accountant whose name she had forgotten.

Lipholo said they would use the duplicate key to open the safe when doctors came to collect their cheques.

But when November came back from leave, Morojele allegedly kept the duplicate keys to the safe.

Lipholo said Morojele opened the safe to give a cheque to one doctor, but when another came to collect his cheque, she refused.

“When November came I told her that Morojele said she still had a duplicate key but she does not want it to be known that she had a duplicate,” Lipholo said.

She said Morojele handed the key to November when the latter demanded it.

Lipholo said at one time there was a break-in at the office and the safe was found to have been tampered with.

“After some time in the morning I met accused one, Mpolai Mopeli, carrying a payment voucher coming out of the office,” the witness said.

She said in September 2007, Mopeli told her that three employees Molemahang, Phobane and Mapesela had deserted and therefore she wanted to take the employees’ cheques.

“When I asked Morojele why they were taking other people’s cheques for their own use, Morojele told me that those people had deserted,” Lipholo said.

“We still made payment vouchers for the three people even after it was known that they had deserted.”

She told the court that she warned Morojele to stop paying “ghost employees” but she refused.

She said Morojele told her that they would stop making payment vouchers in December as there was a circular indicating that all civil servants must be paid through the bank.

Under cross-examination from Advocate Tumisang Mosotho, Lipholo admitted that payment for the three people was made after all procedures had been followed.

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