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Fokothi probes missing M32million

By Lerato Matheka

The Lerotholi Polytechnic (LP) has instituted an internal audit of its financial books dating from as far back as 2007 following revelations of a missing M32 million, the MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism has learnt.

The audit comes two months after parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) ordered the institution, better known as Fokothi, to trace and account for the missing funds.

The government-owned technical school was first reported to have been fleeced of M32 million in 2014.

The money had been suspected to have been embezzled by the college authorities through “dubious” procurement processes since 2007.

The police Commercial Crime Counter Unit had also investigated the matter, the result of which remained sketchy.

When the PAC, chaired by Movement for Economic Change leader Selibe Mochoboroane, directed the conducting of the audit in March this year, the school was under the directorship of ’Mamokheseng Mpooa, who was the acting Rector. Mpooa has since been replaced by newly appointed Rector Spirit Tlali.

Tlali confirmed the audit was underway in a recent interview with the MNNCIJ, where he described the probe as ‘key’ to the institution’s operations at the moment.

“That (audit) is key. Nobody would give you money if they are not sure you are going to be able to account for it. The starting point for us is to show that we can manage and account for any money,” Tlali said.

Fokothi receives the bulk of its income from government subvention. It has in the recent past sunk deep in a financial crisis that culminated in failure to pay staff salaries, among others.

“The PAC has suggested that we audit our financial systems and we have embarked on an internal audit for the financial years 2007/08 to 2017/18. We do not expect clean books for all these years. We are expecting unclean books, especially because an audit means proper documentation and an explanation for certain expenditures.”

Although its initiation instruction came from the PAC, the Rector said the audit was already in their plans.

“The PAC just emphasised the need for the current LP council to audit its books. So, the exercise was started immediately and is expected to be completed by the end of June. We had to engage our internal people to dedicate their time towards the exercise and I am updated every time,” Tlali said, adding once the internal report is compiled, it will be submitted to the office of the Auditor General.

Tlali further told the Centre the issue of M32 million “and other financial irregularities” concerning Fokothi were already being handled by the police.

“There are people who were involved in financial irregularities, who have since been fired from the institution; their various cases are before the police and cases are not related to that of the missing M32 million,” he said.

The Rector noted the LP financial books required a forensic audit which he regretted they could not afford.

“A forensic audit is very costly, but if we were to have financial assistance to pay for one, we would do it without hesitation. We would do it because it is important to know what happened to all the monies of LP, and to have the responsible people hauled before the courts of law,” he said.

He added that a forensic audit would also enable him to begin his five-year term on a clean slate.

“Without a proper financial audit all financial irregularities hang on my neck,” he said.

Meanwhile, police spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli confirmed to the Centre there were several cases involving Fokothi but indicated that the financial related case before the police was the missing M32 million.

“I am aware that there are a number of cases of students who were admitted with fraudulent documents and I know of one which involves some of the officers of the school, but the cases are still under investigation.

“With regards to the M32 million case, investigations are still underway. There is equipment that needs to be collected from Pretoria to facilitate further investigations,” Mopeli said.

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