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Fokothi fleeced of M32 millionFokothi fleeced of M32 millionFokothi fleeced of M32 million

 

Lekhetho Ntsukunyane

LEROTHOLI Polytechnic cannot account for M32 million which is suspected to have been embezzled through “dubious” procurement processes over the past seven years, the Sunday Express has learnt.

The police Commercial Crime Counter Unit is now said to be investigating the case, according to the college’s Acting Rector, Hlomohang Majara.

However, Advocate Majara would not reveal how much the government-controlled college, popularly known as Fokothi, could have lost but sources close to the case told the Sunday Express that a total of M32 430 187.15 had been misappropriated since the 2007/8 financial year.

Advocate Majara said: “I can only confirm that police are investigating a case in which a lot of money, millions of maloti if I can say, is suspected to have been misappropriated, misused or swindled from the school coffers, dating as far back as 2007/2008.

“What happened was when we did our own audit here shortly after my appointment as Acting Rector (this year), we came across these disturbing and inadequate records. We reported the issue to the police because a case of this magnitude cannot be handled by Lerotholi Polytechnic since it has possible criminal implications.

“You see, we don’t have the authority to dig deeper through consulting banks and asking for certain details, which can only be done by the police, which is why we had to report the issue to them.”

Advocate Majara further noted because the money appeared to have been stolen over many years, “some of the culprits might have already left the institution”, hence the involvement of the police.

Asked if the suspension of the Deputy Rector – Academic Affairs & Research, Palo Pokothoane; Director-Human Resource, Limpho Nchephe-Motanyane; and Senior Accountant Motale Noosi, on 7 November 2014 was linked to the missing millions, Advocate Majara said: “The three officials were suspended on the basis of transactions processed during the current financial and calendar year of 2014/15. These were processed, authorised and approved by the three between April and September this year.

“There are 14 payments to be precise, which were initiated, authorised and approved by the three officials. First, these payments, whose amount I am also not going to reveal lest I scare away the culprits or jeorpardise the case, were all made to a certain foreign-based company, whose name I will also not reveal at the moment.

“Secondly, this company is not registered in our database, which means it does not appear on the list of companies we procure goods and services from as a school. It is our policy that only companies in our database must be used for these purposes.

“Thirdly, the records do not show the required documentation such as quotations, requisitions, delivery notes and invoices to confirm the amounts paid to the company.

“It is a basic principle that in any organisation, when procurement processes are made, and before any payment is made, those documents are in place and, most importantly, that the goods or services have been supplied satisfactorily. However, we are still trying to find whether anything was supplied. You see, it is very difficult to even establish what was being purchased because we can’t locate the relevant documents in the files.

“The reason why I suspended the three officials was to make way for our investigations. We can’t ask them to assist us in the investigations because they are suspects based on their signatures authorising the payments. Millions of maloti are also involved here. We will call them to explain their side of the story after our investigations are complete.”

Asked whether the college had paid the M14.5 million it owed the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) in Pay-As-You-Earn tax, Advocate Majara said: “No, unfortunately not, because we can’t afford it under these circumstances.

“However, we have asked the Ministry of Education and Training to intervene as this institution is responsible and accountable to the ministry. We have since asked the ministry to settle the debt with the LRA. We don’t know how it will go.”

Meanwhile, repeated efforts by the Sunday Express to get a comment from the Minister of Education and Training, ’Makabelo Mosothoane and the ministry’s Principal Secretary, Keratile Thabana, were fruitless yesterday.

However, the Sunday Express is in possession of a copy of a letter Ms Thabana wrote to the LRA Commissioner – Domestic Taxes, dated 30 October 2014, titled, “Settlement Plan for Pay-As-You-Earn Liability – Lerotholi Polytechnic”, which reads: “I refer to your correspondence on the above matter, and wish to inform you that the Ministry of Education and Training, as the mother ministry of the institution, is earnestly working on soliciting funds from all possible sources, to deal with this matter. We hope that in the very near future, we will provide you with concrete evidence of how the amount of M14, 581, 736.37 will be paid back to you over the 12 months you have suggested.”

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