Former PSs threaten court action over pensions
FORMER principal secretaries who served in the Pakalitha Mosisili-led former government have threatened legal action to force the government to reverse its instruction to the Pension Fund to deduct money from their pensions to pay back the M500 000 loans they owe the state.
They say the move, which will see most of them go home virtually empty-handed, is also discriminatory and unfair since government resolved to write off similar interest-free loans that were taken by legislators who served during the same period.
The former PSs further argue that it is completely unfair for the government to punish them with the crippling deductions as it is was not their fault that the Mosisili regime did not last its full five year tenure.
The loans were supposed to be deducted from the PSs’ salaries over five years but the PSs were shown the exit door when the government collapsed prematurely, leaving them without any means of paying back.
Dr Mosisili came to power in 2015 but his government collapsed after a 1 March 2017 vote of no confidence in parliament resulted in elections which ushered in the current four party government which is headed by All Basotho Convention leader, Thomas Thabane. Other collation partners are the Moleleki Monyane-led Alliance of Democrats (AD), the Thesele ‘Maseribane-led Basotho National Party (BNP) and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho that is led by Keketso Rantšo.
The PSs took the M500 000 free loans along with Members of Parliament, senators and heads of state-owned companies.
While the government has agreed to settle the loans of the legislators, it has however, resolved last month that the former PSs must settle their outstanding balances on their own.
The desperate PSs have sought the assistance of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to ensure the Pensions Fund does not deduct any money from their pensions and pays them in full.
Former Development Planning PS, Majakathata Mokoena-Thakhisi, who last week penned a letter on behalf of the PSs, recently told the Sunday Express they hoped the PAC would be able to make government realise the unfairness of making them repay the loans from their pensions when they were not responsible for the collapse of the government.
“Unlike the MPs, we are not responsible for the collapse of the (former) government,” Mr Mokoena-Thakhisi said, adding, “We are technocrats while the MPs are politicians who voted responsible for the collapse of that government”.
“This is a sensitive matter that must be handled with caution.
“We wrote a letter to the PAC, raising our concerns. The point is that the government settled the loans of the MPs and the previous governments even settled loans of PSs who came before us.
“This government cannot say that it will only settle the MPs debt only. By so doing they are creating a situation where there are some discrepancies and discriminatory practices and given that the loans were taken at the same time.
“The government decision raises constitutional problems especially as it was made without consideration of the legal implications,” Mr Mokoena-Thakhisi said, adding the former PSs would now be forced to spend money in litigation to force the government to accord them the same treatment as the legislators.”
Meanwhile, the Pension Fund’s Principal Officer, Thabo Thulo, recently appeared before PAC and told the parliamentary body that they were yet to pay out the former PSs’ gratuities because of the ongoing loan repayments saga.
“We have had to wait this long because they benefitted from the M500 000 loans and we were waiting for the government to say whether or not the outstanding loan balances must be deducted from their pensions.
“We then received a letter from the government last month, instructing us to deduct the outstanding payments from the PSs’ gratuities.
“But this will not even solve the problem because even after we deduct the outstanding balances from the gratuities, those who took the loans will not get any pensions but they will still owe the government,” Mr Thulo said.
PAC Chairperson, Selibe Mochoboroane, then directed Mr Thulo to start processing the PSs’ payments.
“It doesn’t matter whether or not they go home empty-handed but make sure that you do your own work by processing the payments and deduct the balances as instructed,” Mr Mochoboroane said.