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Govt blows M3 million on high profile funerals

  • M1 million spent on former First Lady Lipolelo Thabane’s funeral alone
  • auditor general laments “uneconomic spending” by the state

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

THE government blew close to M3 million on four high profile 2017 and 2018 funerals including those of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s former wife, Lipolelo Thabane; Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation Minister, Kabelo Mafura and army commander Lieutenant General Khoantle Motšomotšo.

More than M1 million of that amount was spent on the funeral of Ms Thabane who was shot dead by an unknown assailant as she was about to drive into her Ha-‘Masana home on 14 June 2017. The incident occurred just two days before Dr Thabane’s inauguration as prime minister. A female companion of Ms Thabane also sustained serious injuries in the shooting.

The revelations of the government spending on the funerals are contained in the latest report by Auditor General, Lucy Liphafa, on the Consolidated Financial Statements of the government for the 2017/18 financial year which ended on 31 March 2018.

The report was tabled in parliament on Friday by the Minister of Trade and Industry, Halebonoe Setšabi. The money was spent despite Ms Liphafa’s previous warnings about the government’s “uneconomic spending”.

Ms Liphafa found that M742 332, which was 67 percent of the M1 104 249 for Ms Thabane’s funeral, was spent on paying caterers.

Apart from Ms Thabane’s funeral in Makhoakhoeng, Maseru, the government spent M626 143 on the funeral of Gender Minister, Kabelo Mafura, who died on Christmas Eve in 2017 in Bloemfontein after a short illness.

Mr Mafura was also the deputy leader of the Alliance of Democrats (AD), the second largest party in the governing coalition which also includes Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC), Communications Minister Thesele ‘Maseribane’s Basotho National Party (BNP) and Labour Minister Keketso Rantšo’s Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL).

The state also spent M586 241 on the funeral of Justice Gabriel Ntšabeng Mofolo and another M581 030 on the funeral of Lt-Gen Motšomotšo.  Lt-Gen Motšomotšo was assassinated at his Ratjomose Barracks offices on 5 September 2017, allegedly by two senior army officers, Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi. Brig Sechele and Col Hashatsi were also killed by Lt-Gen Motšomotšo’s bodyguards during the incident.

In total, the Thabane administration spent M 2 897 663 on the four funerals.

“The audit established that an amount of M 2 897 663 was paid for four official burials in respect of the late Honourable Minister Kabelo Mafura, Judge Mofolo, Lieutenant General Motšomotšo and Mrs Alice Lipolelo Thabane,” Ms Liphafa states in her report.

She said while the government bore “reasonable costs” for the funerals of citizens had been considered worthy of an official funeral, a review of the Home Affairs ministry’s records had revealed certain anomalies including the fact that “the cabinet memorandum authorising the expenditure to be incurred by for these official funerals was not made available for audit and therefore I could not determine whether expenditure incurred was as cabinet had intended”.

“The bulk of expenditure for these (four) official funerals was on catering services escalating from 41 percent to 67 percent. In my previous audit report, I raised a concern on uneconomic spending on catering services which could have been avoided if the option of catering services was weighed against buying food for the bereaved families. I cited an example that if five to 10 cows were bought for each family at M10 000 each, the cost of meat would range from M50 000 to M100 000; and groceries and vegetables around M80 000 to M100 000. The government would have spent minimal expenditure of M200 000 for each funeral.

“I repeat my previous year’s recommendation that these anomalies call for government to come up with a policy on key activities to be covered for state and official funerals,” Ms Liphafa said.

She also expressed concern over the government’s failure to furnish her with documents regarding planned expenditures on other national events.

“There are other remarkable national events that the government decided to celebrate as well as official ceremonies every year. As I have indicated in my previous audit report, these celebrations necessitate a good number of costly arrangements for catering, structural improvements and decorations on the celebration grounds.

“I have expressed a concern in regard to these celebrations that, since they are planned occasions, I had expected to be furnished with a plan specifying activities to be carried out and expenditure thereto. There were neither plans nor cabinet memoranda as well as financial performance reports on implementation of planned activities provided for audit and therefore, I could not establish whether activities carried out were complaint to the intentions of the cabinet.”

Ms Liphafa has previously raised concerns about unprocedural and unbridled spending by this and previous governments but inspite of her adverse reports which are produced diligently after each financial year, government profligacy continues unabated.

Ms Liphafa’s audit report for the 2016/17 financial year shows that the previous Pakalitha Mosisili-led government unprocedurally spent millions of unbudgeted funds to fund the termination of the controversial Bidvest fleet services tender which was mired in corruption as well as funding the 3 June 2017 elections.

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