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Bungled liquidation haunts Co-op Lesotho

BILLY NTAOTE and MPHO THAA THAA

A man who led a bungled Liquidation process of Co-op Lesotho from 2000-2006 is now demanding an estimate of M1 million for ‘unpaid services’ from the ailing cooperative, which he is found at the centre of its financial distraught.

Letlama Talejane, a former Commissioner of Cooperatives was appointed to liquidate the ailing cooperative in the early 2000s but later the process aborted after audit discovery that Co-op Lesotho was not insolvent, thereby bringing to an end his work.

But he has now told the MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism he has never been paid for his liquidation work and is contemplating taking the cooperative to court.

Talejane said this when quizzed by the Centre about allegations that he is part of the sources of Co-op Lesotho’s deep-rooted financial challenges that continue to haunt the Cooperative’s revival process.

“I’ve approached my lawyers. Co-op Lesotho owes me M200, 000.00 for my services. And when we added 18.5 percent interest rate per year to date with my lawyer, we got something close to M1 million that has accrued from 2002,” said Talejane.

Prior to efforts to revive Co-op Lesotho, the Centre has learned that between 2000 and 2006 a liquidation process initiated by former Commissioner of Cooperatives took place due to claims that the cooperative was bankrupt and could not service its debts.

Shockingly, the liquidation was ordered by the former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s government in the early 2000s on the Cooperative without a court process being followed to initiate the liquidation.

Secondly, Talejane was allegedly appointed with expectations that he was highly experienced in running cooperatives and would lead the liquidation process.

But the Centre learned that Talejane failed to maintain proper records during this time but he now claims the problem was not proper bookkeeping but was that “the Cooperative was living hand to mouth”.

However, in an interview, Neo Theoha, the Co-op Lesotho’s new Chief Executive Officer has alleged discovery that the liquidation process was flawed as Talejane was not an independent liquidator being a former Commissioner of Cooperatives.

Theoha further claims the liquidation process should have not been initiated by the Ministry on its own without petitioning the courts to seek the court to authorise the liquidation process.

“Shockingly the liquidator was also earning a salary and not a commission from the Co-op Lesotho insufficient coffers while supposedly liquidating the cooperative.

“When the Ministry turned back on its decisions and decided to quash the liquidation processes and revive this Cooperative, the liquidator was demanding severance payment as though he was an employee like all other employees of the cooperative,” said Theoha.

But Talejane argues that Theoha is missing the point in that the cooperatives laws were observed by the then Commissioner when he was appointed the Liquidator.

“At that time 2000-2001 the then Commissioner of Cooperatives made a financial inquiry into Co-op Lesotho on suspicions that it was not functioning properly and the inquiry confirmed that there is a problem in the finances of the Co-op Lesotho.

“Then the liquidation processes were initiated in line with Cooperatives law that grants the commissioner powers to liquidate when necessary.

“Then the commissioner of cooperatives who succeeded the one who initiated the liquidation process made an audit of the liquidation process.

“The auditors gave a report that said Co-op Lesotho has assets that qualify Coop Lesotho to continue business due to the value of its assets” said Talejane as he narrated a brief history of Coop Lesotho’s financial woes.

Talejane said in a nutshell the auditors said the Co-op Lesotho is not insolvent but needs “a qualified management and technical advice to revive it”.

But on the concerns about the manner in which he was contracted and earned a salary from the ailing cooperative’s coffers, Talejane said Co-op Lesotho still owes him for his services while acting as its liquidator.

He said Theoha still has to pay for his benefits which have since accumulated.

He insists the Commissioner of Cooperatives is the one vested with the powers to determine how the liquidator shall be appointed and also how the liquidator shall be paid for services rendered during the liquidation.

Talejane said that is why the decision that he should be paid from the coffers of the Co-op Lesotho was made by the Commissioner of Cooperatives.

He however points that another challenge was that Co-op Lesotho was without funds and “we were surviving from hand to mouth”.

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