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IEC officials attend ‘fake’ trip

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Caswell Tlali

MASERU — All Basotho Convention (ABC) party youth league leader, Libe Moremoholo, wants parliament to investigate two senior Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) officials who allegedly insisted on attending a cancelled workshop in the United States.
Moremoholo alleges that IEC commissioner, Malefetsane Nkhahle and information officer Tuoe Hantši claimed hefty per diems and travelled to Washington DC in August 2009 for a workshop they already knew had been cancelled.
Moremoholo told the Sunday Express last night that he had already started his own investigations and he wants parliament to conduct a thorough inquiry “into Nkhahle and Hantši’s misconduct”.
“I want it established that we have an IEC which cannot be relied upon,” Moremoholo said.
“The conduct of these two officials is a reflection of the kind of IEC we have, whose credibility is questionable,” he said.
Nkhahle and Hantši went to the United States to attend a programme on electoral management organised by the Centre for Democracy and Election Management at the American University in Washington DC.
Initially the IEC chairperson Limakatso Mokhothu, Nkhahle, Hantši and director Mphasa Mokhochane were invited.
However, Nkhahle and Hantši were the only ones who attended.
Nkhahle’s travel costs in the business class were M79 000 while Hantši’s amounted to M45 000 in the economy class.
“As you can see, these two people have blown up M124 000 for nothing by insisting to go to a workshop knowing well that it had been cancelled,” Moremoholo said.
“Apart from that, each of them paid US$1 900 (M13 300) for tuition that never took place because, as you can see, the workshop was never held.”
“How does anyone trust this IEC which allows things like this?”
Moremoholo said to make matters worse, the two men decided to stay from August 24 to September 5 in “expensive hotels where they spent more money”.
But last night Hantši told the
Sunday Express that Moremoholo’s accusations were baseless.
Hantši said that when they arrived in the United States they went to the venue of the workshop only to discover for the first time that it had been postponed to December.
“There was a written sign on the door saying the workshop had been postponed to December 1,” Hantši said.
“We enquired from the neighbouring offices and we were informed that the office occupants would be available in the afternoon,” he said.
Hantši said they went back to their hotel where they communicated with the programme organiser who told them that he was not aware that they had come because he had not seen evidence that they had paid for the course.
“One of the key staff members of the Centre for Democracy and Election Management Institute, Vassia Stoilov, met us and apologised profusely for what appeared to have been a communication breakdown,” Hantši said.
“It was also explained that the person who sent us the reminder was himself not aware of the postponement and when we arrived there he was away on leave,” he said.
Hantši said they then asked Stoilov to arrange that they meet people who had been lined up to run the course so that they could at least get something worthwhile for the money they had spent.
The reason was that they could not go back to the United States in December for the course because they would be preparing for the local government elections that were scheduled for April 2010.
Hantši said the airline they were using informed them that it would be hard for them to change reservations to facilitate an immediate return flight because their tickets had built-in restrictions that would not allow re-issue without substantial surcharges.
“We decided that we should be taken to each of the people who were lined up to present in the workshop and get the tuition,” Hantši said.
“Whatever we would learn would be beneficial to the IEC and our learning would be better because the tutors would be working on only the two of us,” he said.
The programme organisers, Hantši said, even reimbursed the IEC for the costs incurred for their travel and during their stay in the United States.
Moremoholo, however, is adamant that the Americans could not cancel the workshop and fail to inform people who would participate in it.
He said he does not believe Hantši’s explanation. “I do not buy that story,” Moremoholo said.
Efforts to contact the IEC last night to confirm Hantši’s claims that the workshop organisers reimbursed the Commission for the costs incurred for the duo’s travel and stay in the United States were unsuccessful.

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