Local govt ministry given ultimatum on pensions
THE Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has given the Local Government and Chieftaincy Ministry until Friday to submit to more than 1000 files of former councilors to the Public Officers’ Defined Contribution Pension Fund so that the latter can begin processing their pension payments.
The directive was issued on Friday after the ministry’s appearance before PAC to answer to complaints by the Former Councilors Association of Lesotho that they were still to receive their pensions and gratuities six months after their tenure ended after the 30 September 2017 Local government elections which ushered in new councilors.
Addressing the PAC on Friday, Local Government and Chieftaincy Principal Secretary, Tšeliso Mokoko, conceded that the ministry officials responsible for processing the payments were dragging their feet on the issue.
“The problem is on our side and we are not fulfilling our mandate (to pay the pensions) to the best of our abilities,” Mr Mokoko said.
“We need to up our game because other offices like the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) take only two days to process the files and send them to us.
“May this honourable committee allow me to sit down with my team to come up with a concrete plan on how we are going to fast track this process?
“This is because it would be tricky to come up with a deadline on the submission of all the audited files to the Pension Fund without talking to my team and preparing a detailed written report for this honourable committee.”
But the PAC refused to accept his request on the grounds that doing so would only serve to further delay the pension payouts.
PAC member, Sam Rapapa, said the ministry had already been given enough time to process the payments.
“We met with ministry officials here in parliament more than a week ago but still nothing has been done to ensure that the former councilors’ pensions and gratuities are processed.
“Ten days after we discussed this matter, only 66 out of the 1388 former councilors have been paid and this shows that people (in the ministry) are not serious. Therefore, all the audited files from the ministry should reach the Pension Fund office by Friday so that all necessary payments can be made before March final (the last day of the month before the end of a financial year),” Mr Rapapa said. He was supported by PAC member and chief whip, Likopo Mahase.
PAC Chairperson, Selibe Mochoboroane, who had initially suggested a 14-day ultimatum, said he had no option but to support the seven day ultimatum.
“Mr PS, we are giving you seven days beginning today (last Friday) to ensure that all the relevant files are processed and delivered at Pension Fund office.
“This deadline is not negotiable. We need the payments done before end of this financial year. We are not only helping the former councilors but we also want to ensure that this will not happen again in future,” Mr Mochoboroane said.
He ordered the PS and his subordinates to work during the weekend to meet the deadline for submitting the files to the Pension Fund.
For his part, the Pension Fund Principal Officer, Thabo Thulo, welcomed the PAC directive. He however, said it might not be possible to fast track the payments of pensions to all the former councilors because some of them no longer had valid bank accounts.