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LCS boss defends promotions

 

Tefo Tefo

EMBATTLED Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS) Commissioner ‘Matefo Makhalemele contends that the law was followed in her promotions of 27 officers two days before the 3 June 2017 National Assembly elections.

In her response to a High Court challenge of the promotions lodged by LCS Sergeant Bokang Ramotena, Commissioner Makhalemele states that the promotions were in compliance with the Lesotho Correctional Service Act of 2016.

Sgt Ramotena lodged an application in July this year challenging the legality of the promotions that were made on 1 June 2017, just two days before the snap elections that ushered in the four-party coalition government headed by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.

The promotions, which were announced through the Corrections Internal Circular Notice No. 45 of 2017 dated 20 June 2017, range from the ranks of correctional officer to deputy commissioner.

Dr Thabane had sent Commissioner Makhalemele on a 57-day forced leave at the time of the court challenge which has been seen by many observers as a precursor to dismissal.

In her court papers, Sgt Ramotena argues that the promotions were made on a corrupt basis and were nepotistic.

She asserts that the correct promotion procedure mandated that vacancies in the LCS should be declared in the vacancy report form with the number of available vacancies in each rank.

Sgt Ramotena also indicates that applications should have been analysed against job requirements or job specifications by the sectional heads and “lastly, the Principal Secretary approves shortlisted candidates”.

She contends that the senior officers’ promotions were done contrary to the law as they were promoted by a board comprising of three individuals “as opposed to five which is required by the law”.

Sgt Ramotena also avers that she was not considered for promotion in 2015 on the grounds that Commissioner Makhalemele had not received her appraisal form as part of the application.

Commissioner Makhalemele is the first of 30 respondents cited in Sgt Ramotena’s court application, including the Ministry of Correctional Service (second respondent) and the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Correctional Service (third respondent).

But in her answering affidavit issued on 31 August 2017, Commissioner Makhalemele states that the procedure and guidelines adopted in the past prior to the enactment of the 2016 law, differed from time to time as they were set out by the individual commissioners who occupied the office.

“I submit that the promotion guidelines used in the past were developed from time to time by the individual commissioner as there was no law which clearly stated how things should be done,” she says, adding that the law was followed.

“I aver that when we were promoting in respect of the promotions that form subject matter of the present litigation, we did not follow any procedure or guideline we used in the past. We followed the provisions of the new Lesotho Correctional Service Act 2016.

“I wish to specifically state that the law was followed during the promotions that form subject matter of this litigation.”

Commissioner Makhalemele maintains that the panel that was responsible for approving promotions was properly constituted because it made a quorum as required by the law.

“I aver that on the issue of quorum, the quorum requirement was complied with. We were five.

“It was the commissioner as chairperson, two members from Public Service and Ministry of Law, Deputy Commissioner and secretary taking minutes.

“In the present scenario, all were present. The deputy commissioner was excused as one of the positions to be considered was that of the deputy commissioner,” she says, adding the board followed its own procedure as per the law.

The affidavit, she states, is meant to “set the record straight” on the circumstances surrounding the contested promotions.

In her answering affidavit, LCS Deputy Commissioner Phaello Malataliana, argues that Sgt Ramotena was not entitled to sue because she “failed to demonstrate that she stood to be appointed to all the positions that were subject matter of the promotion”.

“I submit that the applicant (Sgt Ramotena) stood not to become a Correctional officer or a Deputy Commissioner of Lesotho Correctional Services,” argues Deputy Commissioner Malataliana

“She could practically be promoted only to the post of Chief Officer to which only one person has been promoted to. In short, she could challenge a promotion only in relation to one rank of the Chief Officer and not the rest of the positions. She is a Sergeant and she can no longer be heard to cry foul, assuming she does have locus standi to, which she does not, over the posts of correctional officers.”

The court was yet to set the date of hearing for the case at the time of publication.

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