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Siverts’ exit will cost NUL M5m

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

MASERU — The National University of Lesotho (NUL) will have to pay M5 million to Vice-Chancellor Professor Sharon Siverts if it is to fire her.
For the past six months the Lesotho University Teachers and Researchers Union (Lutaru) has been pilling pressure on Siverts to leave office.
The union accuses the vice-chancellor of making unilateral decisions and botching the university’s restructuring programme.
Last week Lutaru called on Siverts to resign in a scathing letter that accused her of negligence, incompetence, wasteful expenditure and nepotism.
Around the same time Prime Minister Tom Thabane told the All Basotho Convention’s youth league conference that government would not “look for a frail white woman to run the university when we have intellectuals who can transform NUL and turn its fortunes around”.
Thabane’s statement was read by many to mean that the government was thinking of replacing Siverts.
Lutaru has also been secretly lobbying government to push Siverts out.
But the cost of pushing out the American professor from the troubled university would run into millions of maloti.
Her exit package might cost the financially troubled university more than M5 million.
Hired by the university council in April last year, Siverts still has four years left on her five-year contract that has an annual salary of M1.2 million.
If she is kicked out the university will have to pay the M4.8 million she was going to earn had she been allowed to complete the last four years of her contract.
But that figure could increase substantially if her other benefits like annul holidays, housing allowance and medical aid are considered.
Those privy to details of her contract say she is also entitled to a flight ticket to visit her family in the US.
She also has fuel and phone allowances.
The university must also foot the cost of taking all her belongings back to the US.
But the financial costs of firing Siverts are much bigger.
During the hunt for the vice-chancellor the university spent nearly M500 000.
Most of the money was budgeted to go towards travel, accommodation and meals for the four candidates who had been shortlisted from the initial 14 applicants.
Siverts had to be flown from America.
Professor Jill Slay, another applicant, was flown from her base in Australia.
Professor Lebohang Moleko, a NUL alumnus, came from his Eritrean base.
The other candidate was Professor Mafa Sejanamane who came from Maseru.
On air tickets alone NUL had a budget of M60 000.
According to the budget when they arrived in Maseru the candidates were to be put in a hotel for four days at a cost of M12 800.
Their lunch and dinner during those four days were planned to cost the struggling college another M8 000 at M250 a meal.
Two cars were to be hired for their transport at a cost of M10 000.
The budget also had a provision of M10 000 for a shuttle taxi to transport the candidates between NUL, Maseru and the airport.
The transport and accommodation for the experts hired from the University of Free State to conduct psychometric tests on the candidates was to take another M10 300.
The test itself would cost the college M36 000, according to the budget.
About M66 000 was paid as allowance to the people on the recruitment panel.
A PA system was to be hired for M3 600.
The university also put aside M300 000 just in case there was need to buy the successful candidate out of his or her current contract with another institution.
Another M102 229 was set aside for what was called “contingencies”.
When Siverts came into office in April last year, NUL’s troubles were already spiralling out of control.
The institution had a M50 million budget deficit.
The university was also forced to fund operations through a bank overdraft.
The university owes M34 million worth of leave days to its nearly 2 000 employees.

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