FINANCE Minister Tlohang Sekhamane says the uncertainty surrounding the fate of suspended Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) Commissioner-General (CG) Thabo Khasipe has taken its toll on the tax collection agency and needs to be speedily resolved.
Mr Sekhamane said this while addressing a media briefing in which he announced that the LRA failed to meet its tax collection target of M6.4 billion by M430.8 million in the 2016/17 financial year.
The LRA, he said, could not operate at 100 percent without its CG, although Chief Planning and Modernisation Officer Idia Penane had managed to hold the fort well in his absence.
CG Khasipe was suspended on 6 February 2017 by the LRA board of directors ahead of an investigation into alleged tax evasion.
He is facing charges in the Magistrate’s Court of failing to file his income tax returns between 2007 and 2014. When CG Khasipe ultimately filed a in 2015, he allegedly submitted “false and misleading” information to the LRA.
The suspension was made barely two months after CG Khasipe was appointed to the position after a year-long search for a suitable candidate.
CG Khasipe is a chartered financial analyst who previously worked for the LRA as deputy commissioner-general from 2004 to 2007 before being appointed Lesotho’s ambassador to Kuwait.
Mr Sekhamane said the absence of the substantive CG had taken its toll on the performance of the LRA.
“The way the general workforce perceive the acting commissioner-general is not the same as when that person is the substantive office holder,” he said.
“We can expect that the work of the LRA may not be as good as it should be when there is a substantive office holder.”
The minister expressed hope that the court case would be finalised soon to end the uncertainty, since they could not replace CG Khasipe as long as he was not found guilty.
“Before the legal issues are resolved, we would not be doing justice to the CG by appointing another office holder,” he said.
“Hopefully, the issues will be resolved speedily. If he (CG Khasipe) is cleared, then he would be reinstated. If there are problems, he would be replaced by either confirming the acting officer (Ms Penane) or we would make a call for applications.”
Mr Sekhamane said Ms Penane had acquitted herself well as acting CG.
“We have been working very well with the acting officer, especially on this issue of the LRA’s failure to meet the expected target. We were able to work very well and things were running very smoothly.
“I have also realised she is a very dedicated officer. But as I said, when one is confirmed, it’s different to when a person is just acting on someone else’s behalf.”
The minister said the government’s plans to extend the LRA’s mandate to non-tax revenue would only be considered when the suspended LRA boss’s fate is certain.