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M1.75million fraud case postponed


Advocate Motiea Teele KCBrian Chiwanza

Labour Court Deputy President, Thato Ramoseme, on Tuesday postponed to 14 April 2016, a case in which former deputy principal secretary for the Ministry of Education and Training, ‘Mota Sekonyela, is being accused of wrongfully approving the payment of M1, 756 698, 33 to contractors in 2010.

The money was meant for the construction of seven schools under a joint-venture between the Lesotho government and the World Bank.  The schools in question are Makheka, Tšenolong and Linotsing in Thaba-Tseka, Makherehloa in Mokhotlong, Thoteng in Qacha’s Nek, Tsuinyane in Mohale’s Hoek and Hermon in Mafeteng.

However, the case had to be postponed because Advocate Motiea Teele (KC), who is representing Mr Sekonyela, was unavailable.

The Public Service Tribunal chairperson and Mr Sekonyela are cited as first and second respondents respectively, in the case.

Documents before the Labour Court indicate that the ministry convened a disciplinary hearing from 8-19 April 2013 and Mr Sekonyela was subsequently ordered to repay M527, 009, 59 of the misappropriated funds. He was also ordered to forfeit 40 percent of his monthly pension but the ruling was later overturned by the Public Service Tribunal.

Part of the ruling by the disciplinary committee, read: “It is common knowledge that seven schools and 16 payment certificates were approved by the respondent between January and October 2010, leading to the charges as laid down.

“The punishment I am about to state is also meant to send a message to officials and members of the public that a serious offense will attract very serious punishment.

“The ministry and Lesotho government have suffered serious financial losses of M1.7 million to be paid by government to the World Bank as refund.

“The situation is very sad for these schools. When one looks at the photos taken in 2012, one gets upset, angry and annoyed by the situation where officers entrusted with the responsibility of managing a multi-million maloti construction project are being dishonest.”

However, Mr Sekonyela appealed the judgment in the Public Service Tribunal, which then ruled in his favour.

“We have not come across anything which may suggest the appellant knew that when he signed for the payments, the information was incorrect. There is also nothing to suggest he had the intention to mislead anybody.

“His argument was everything was done with all honesty. He was not aware site visits were not being done,” the Tribunal ruled.

It also found out because of the difficulty to access the sites, “the appellant relied on his technocrats; there was nothing that could arouse his suspicion that the information he was to append his signature to was false.

“The decision of the Tribunal is therefore, that the appeal is allowed and the decision of the disciplinary inquiry set aside,” part of the Tribunal’s ruling of 15 January 2014 read.

But government through their lawyer, Advocate Tšephe Mohloki responded by launching an appeal in the Labour Court.

“The honourable chairperson erred by invoking the strict standard of proof in the determination of intent on the part of the appellant as a public officer and further heard the appellant on an issue that was not part of the appellant’s grounds of appeal,” government noted in court papers.

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