STUDENTS at the Lesotho Institute of Public Administration and Management (LIPAM) face an uncertain future as lecturers continue to withhold their final year examination results.
Fourteen lecturers refused to release the results in June this year to press the state-owned institution to pay them outstanding allowances amounting to M7600 per person.
The 14 lecturers are employed by LIPAM to teach on a full-time basis. In addition to the full-time job, which comes with a monthly salary of M14 000 per person before tax, the institution further engaged some of the lecturers to teach part-time students attending evening classes for the Diploma in Human Resource.
The lecturers are each paid M1900 per month before tax but the amount has accumulated to M7600 per lecturer due to the institution’s failure to pay them for four months since April 2018.
The lecturers have not been paid on account of the decision by the Office of the Accountant General, in consultation with the Ministry of Public Service, to close the LIPAM’s bank account at Nedbank Lesotho.
The bank account was closed in March 2018 over suspicions that LIPAM management was not “following the government’s financial regulations” through its practice of using the same account for lecturers’ allowances as that which is used by students to pay their fees.
Frustrated students recently petitioned the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to intervene and order LIPAM to ensure that their results are released.
A student representative, Sekake Chaole, recently told the PAC that the decision by the protesting lecturers not to release their results was affecting their dreams of furthering their studies with other tertiary institutions like the National University of Lesotho (NUL).
The 3rd year student said they expected to get their results slips on 20 June 20 2018 as per the school calendar but seven weeks later, all students registered with the institution have still not received their results.
“We have not received our results slips because the lecturers have not been paid their salaries since April 2018 because the Ministry of Public Service closed down the bank account held by the school.
“This is the same account that we use to pay our school fees and none of the students owe the institution school fees. I, for one, paid the M7000 fees in full and I know for a fact that all of us are fully paid up because LIPAM does not allow anyone with fees arrears to sit for examinations,” Mr Chaole said.
He said they had even enlisted the help of the Minister of Public Service, Joang Molapo, but this had proved fruitless as the results were not released on or before 23 July 2018 as the minister had promised.
LIPAM Director General Koena Tlalajoe confirmed that the students had not been given their results after the lecturers refused to release them.
“I can confirm that what the student (Mr Chaole) has just said is true. The (LIPAM) bank account was closed in March this year after the Accountant General said proper legal frameworks were not followed when opening the bank account in 2009. Since that time, we have not been able to pay the salaries of the lecturers and the lecturers are withholding the results,” Ms Tlalajoe said.
She said they were working together with the Ministry of Finance to come with ways of paying the lecturers.
For his part, the principal secretary in the Ministry of Public Works, Tšeliso Lesenya, said the lecturers had a contractual obligation to release the results and not to punish the students who were not to blame for the shortcomings of the management at LIPAM.
He said his ministry was forced to close the bank account after its 2017 preliminary investigations revealed that the school was not being run in line with its establishing legal framework.
He said the school was established to offer short-term study programmes for civil servants and the subsequent inclusion of a three-year diploma in Human Resource Management needed to be regularised to avoid such debacles.
“There is no way we would have allowed the (illegal) practice to continue. We need to ensure that long-term programmes are included in the school curriculum through legal means. It is also illegal for one person to get two salaries from the same institution. We can’t continue to pay the lecturers on a full-time and part-time basis. Holding government at ransom is not in their (lecturer’s) best interests,” Mr Lesenya said.
He added: “All teachers must release the results as we are currently in negotiations with the Ministry of Finance to ensure that all LIPAM expenses are included in the consolidated fund and we have been told that the expenses will be included in the supplementary budget.”
Mr Lesenya promised the PAC that he would negotiate with the local tertiary institutions to accommodate LIPAM students seeking admission because it was not their fault that they missed the deadline for the submissions of applications.