MASERU — His Majesty King Letsie III has pardoned a top government official who was facing five years in jail for unauthorised state expenditure.
Ponts’o Lebotsa, the former principal secretary in the Ministry of Justice, was convicted of breaching the government’s financial procedures.
Last year the High Court sentenced Lebotsa, 48, to five years in prison or M10 000 fine after she was found guilty of ordering an IT system for the ministry without approval in 2007.
The ministry had not budgeted for the system worth M750 000.
She also did not apply for a “special arrangement to make the purchase”.
Lebotsa was however acquitted on the main charge of corruption because the court found that she had not directly benefited from the transaction.
Her appeal against conviction was rejected on October 23 last year with the Court of Appeal saying she had to either serve the sentence or pay the fine.
But according to the government gazette Notice No. 72 of 2010, Lebotsa will now not be liable to serve the sentence or pay the fine because she has been pardoned by King Letsie III.
“Pursuant to section 101 of the Constitution of Lesotho 1993 and section 332 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, 1981, and acting on the advice of the Pardons Committee, granted Ms Ponts’o Lebotsa free pardon for the offence she committed and was convicted of and sentenced under the Finance Order 1998,” the gazette said.
The gazette was signed by Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla.
According to section 101 of the constitution the decision to pardon someone is made by the pardons committee which then advises the king.
The king may “grant to any person convicted of any offence under the law of Lesotho a pardon, either free or subject to lawful conditions,” says the section.
He may also “grant to any person a respite, either indefinite or for specified period, of the execution of any punishment imposed on that person for such an offence”.
According to the section, the king may also “substitute a less severe form of punishment for any punishment imposed on any person for such an offence and remit the whole or part of any punishment imposed on any person for such an offence or any penalty or forfeitures otherwise due to the king on account of such an offence”.
Lebotsa had maintained throughout her trial that the equipment was not for her personal use but for the benefit of the ministry.
Efforts to get a comment from the former principal secretary failed.