Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has urged police to speed up investigations on death of Khahliso Soro (39) who died mysteriously in September 2018, few weeks after promising the committee that he would name and shame high-ranking officers in the Home Affairs ministry who had misused public funds.
The alleged misuse is said to have occurred when former Minister Joang Molapo was responsible for that ministry, in the first Thomas Thabane’s led coalition government which lasted from 2012 to 2015.
The coalition compromised of Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party (BNP)-Thesele ‘Maseribane and Mothetjoa Metsing’s led Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).
When he appeared before the PAC inquiries to account on the use of funds by Home Affairs ministry as allocated for King’s Birthday in 2013, the now deceased Soro said M15, 584, 395 was budgeted for the King’s fiftieth Birthday Celebrations.
However, upon investigations, the PAC unearthed an over-expenditure of over M1 million (M1, 211, 126.00) by catering department.
Details about how money was siphoned using his Majesty’s Birthday are revealed in a report by the PAC tabled the National Assembly of Lesotho today.
Soro, the report says had told PAC that Molapo had advised them not to pick the usual caterers in their database but pick new caterers who were directly recommended by him (Molapo).
However, in its report PAC says Soro disappeared when he had to reveal the names of the new caterers and to their surprise, he was later reported dead.
“Soro’s death is suspicious because it conveniently happened during the time he was supposed to give information to PAC. This does not look like a coincidence. Therefore the committee urges the police to speed up the investigations and be reported to parliament within 60 days,” reads part of the PAC report.
PAC has also urged the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offenses (DCEO) to investigate Molapo who is now Minister of Public Service, for misuse of power in preparation for the 2013 King’s Birthday celebrations.
“Investigations leading to action must be done by DCEO within 30 days against Minister Joang Molapo and the then PS Ranthomeng Matete for misuse of power by illegally engaging (Titi) Thelejane.
“Section 13 of the amendment of the Prevention of corruption and Economic Offence Act of 1999 should be applied,” said the Committee in its report.
According to the report, Thelejane who claimed to be coordinating the event solely organised South African artists without knowledge of National celebrations Committee, which had organised and authorised use of local artists only.
“Minister Joang and the PS irregularly engaged Miss Titi Thejane to carry out the functions of the deputy principal secretary but she (Thejane) was never given a contract. She worked for some months without getting paid and she actively involved in the preparation of this celebration” said PAC in its report.
“All the embezzled funds for this occasion should be recovered by using the Money laundering and proceeds of crime Act 2008,” PAC recommends.
According to the Committee, it was estimated that catering for members of the public for that day cost about M4, 450,000.00.
Soro, before his disappearance and demise had told the PAC the increase in catering costs occurred because of additional 29 catering companies to the previous estimated number by the organising committee, resulting in an over-expenditure of M530, 000.00.
“It should be noted that the figures provided by the ministry of Home Affairs could not be relied upon as they kept changing every time,” noted the Committee in its report.
The committee also discovered that the ministry hired “Public Address System (PA System) at the cost of M250, 000 from the Republic of South Africa without following the open tender procedure.
The Committee also noted that it is reported that one VIP toilet was hired at the cost of M14, 000; wines and champagnes for the VIPs cost M70, 000. 000 which Soro failed to give their quantity.
“Moyeni Office Suppliers was paid M172, 000.00 for providing attire for the National Celebrations Committee. The irony here is an office suppliers company providing clothes for the committee.
“The other thing that surprised the committee was that the budget for entertainment was M290, 00 but instead the Ministry paid M4, 076, 475 to Nala Capital Advisors which was even never awarded the contract by the ministry in the celebration.
“It was suspicious why Advance Business Promotions have benefited more than other companies as it was given several roles to play in the celebration and was paid over M5 million,” reads part of the Committee’s report.
PAC has also learned that Advance Business Promotion made a cessation to Nala Capital Advisors with a power of attorney instructing the ministry to direct all payments due to it to be directed to Nala Capital Advisors and was duly approved by PS Finance.
Prior to this cessation being approved, PAC learned that legal opinion was sought by the procurement unit regarding the matter from the Chief Legal Officer Puleng Bangamthi whom in turn responded in writing to Principal Secretary Matete.
“Instead of being answered by the PS, she was answered in writing by Molapo who saw nothing wrong involving himself in the procurement process. Later, the cessation was revoked,” the PAC report said.
When quizzed by the Committee, Molapo confirmed having advised the celebrations committee to give a chance to new caterers.
Molapo also told the Committee that the additional 29 caterers were a necessity considering the number of people expected to attend the His Majesty’s fiftieth Birthday.
The Minister also denied to the Committee, allegations that meddled in procurement activities contrary to what the procurement regulations provides.
“He went to the level of being an influencer in the procurement process,” reads the committee’s report.
“In preparation of this celebration PAC observed that almost all the services provided by the private sector were sourced through an ‘expression of interest’ as it was indicated that there was no budget allocation for the celebration until the first week of July 2013.
“The committee raised a concern that huge funds were spent on the King’s birthdays without clear accountability, thus concludes that officers in the ministry of Home Affairs used government celebrations to enrich themselves,” reads the Committee’s report.