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Makhakhe must go

WE are disturbed and appalled.

Not by news that an internal probe has found Kubutu Makhakhe, the principal secretary for administration in the prime minister’s office, guilty on seven of the 10 corruption related charges he was facing. No.

What has dismayed us is that after finding Makhakhe guilty the panel recommended that he be transferred to another post in the government instead of being fired.

The panel said he should be given a position that does not deal with procurement.

That the panel which made such a timid recommendation was chaired by Monehela Posholi, the respected chief executive of the Lesotho Communications Authority, is despicable.

How does Posholi reconcile the gravity of Makhakhe’s crimes with such a lenient punishment?

The evidence before him was so clear that he cannot claim to have been in a dilemma that influenced such a generous judgment. 

Yet his judgment reads like it was written by someone who had doubts that Makhakhe was indeed guilty of seven of the 10 charges he was facing.

Here is a chief accounting officer in the prime minister’s office who approved the payment of invoices that had his wife’s postal address and phone number.

In fact the postal address on the two invoices belongs to him. Yet he approved those payments.

Reading the judgment one could feel that Posholi fully understood the severity of Makhakhe’s charges.

“Any signs of irregularity that may lead to conflict of interest or perceived favouritism, such as the wife’s cellular phone number and postal address of oneself on supporting documentation (invoices), should be questioned to guard against compromising on the required impartiality,” Posholi ruled.

He said by approving the transactions with such glaring anomalies, Makhakhe did “not demonstrate best endeavours on his part and certainly not a good example to others, including but not limited to, his subordinates in the ministry (prime minister’s office)”. 

Makhakhe’s decision had brought his integrity into question and cast “some shadow on the image of the public service”, he said.

Because of this oversight, Posholi ruled, Makhakhe has brought the public service into disrepute.

He added that by being negligent Makhakhe had failed to respect and serve the interests of Basotho.

It was therefore shocking that after finding Makhakhe guilty on seven of the 10 charges Posholi had the bravado to recommend that he should be transferred to another position in the government.

Judgments don’t come this coy and indulgent.

In other words, Posholi is saying that although Makhakhe lacks diligence, impartiality and has clearly failed to lead by example he can still be useful in government.

He is saying although Makhakhe is guilty of bringing the civil service into disrepute he can still be a valuable employee in government. This is outrageous.

After being convicted of such serious crimes, Makhakhe should be nowhere near a public office.

He has clearly shown that he is not fit to hold a government job.

Even a demotion is not punishment enough for his transgressions.

What value can he still add to the government with such a soiled reputation?

Posholi deserves to be rebuked for making such an irresponsible decision. Transferring Makhakhe to another position simply relocates his problems to another government office.

Decisions like these do not help rid the government of senior officials of dubious integrity.

Posholi’s decision also sets a toxic precedence that says a government worker can break the law, get convicted and still remain employed.

The decision gives the impression that Lesotho is a country that goes easy on crooked officials.

Makhakhe must go.

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