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Phamotse to answer for ‘dumping’ unwanted teachers at schools

RELEBOHILE KHOALE

Youth and Sports Minister Mahali Phamotse face possible investigation by the anti-corruption body over her actions while serving as education and training minister.

Phamotse is according to Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee allegedly in breach of the law after she ordered placement of unwanted teachers in schools who ended being paid without working.

In a stern recommendation by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in its report tabled in the national Assembly of Lesotho on May 24, the committee recommended that Phamotse, a former Minister of Education and Training must face an investigation by the Directorate on corruption and economic offences (DCEO).

The committee wants Phamotse and the ministry’s Chief Legal Officer Mofoka, together with Teaching Service’s Chief Education Officer Sehlabi investigated for their role in illegal placement of teachers in schools.

The committee further recommended that the Education and Training Ministry must “investigate the placement situation and report to the House how much the government has lost under this placement programme where some teachers were paid without working”.

The committee also recommended in its report that the Education and Training Ministry must revert to the usual practices and stop dumping unwanted teachers in schools.

This PAC recommendations follow concerns raised by Education Secretaries of Church Schools and some Principals.

Part of the PAC report reads that a controversial issue was brought up by the Educational Secretaries of church schools and some principals of certain schools, who complained about placement system of teachers in 2015 and 2016 in their schools without consensus with owners of the schools.

“They contested that the placement was politically motivated and most of the teachers placed in their schools were not the type they wanted.

“There was a complaint that Phamotse imposed the system without engaging principals and owners of the schools, therefore the decision was made against the law.

“The main concern here was that governing school boards were being side-lined and there was no transparency in the placement of the teachers.

“This practice is suspected to have cost the government huge sums of money as these teachers were rejected in the schools where they were “dumped” but were still getting paid even though they were not working,” reads the PAC report.

The report further shows that when quizzed by the Committee about her actions Phamotse indicated that it came to her attention that there were many unfilled vacancies in the schools yet those posts had been allocated funds.

The report says Phamotse further said there were complaints to her office about “malpractices in the employment of teachers where some sources cited nepotism, bribery, and religious affiliations to mention the few”.

The report says Phamotse reported to have engaged the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and Teachers Service Department (TSD) about a possible solution to that alleged crisis of teachers’ shortage.

Phamotse told committee that it was then decided there is a need to embark on a study relating to the alleged crisis that would inform the actions to be taken to redress the situation.

However, Phamotse told the Committee, educational secretaries of church schools were informed, but the secretaries and ministry failed to agree on composition of team to undertake the study.

The committee learned that the ministry decided to unilaterally conduct the study by interviewing candidates who had registered themselves as teachers with the Teacher Service Department but had not been offered employment.

Phamotse told the committee she was advised by the ministry’s officers, particularly the chief legal officer and chief education officer in the teaching services to seek approval of the cabinet to implement the alleged “Pilot Placement”. The Minister said her pilot placement scheme was approved by cabinet.

But, the then deputy minister of education and training, Thabang Kholumo distanced himself from this placement when quizzed by the Committee.

He argued that he never formed part of the team that advised the minister to seek the cabinet’s approval nor advised the minister as an individual.

When interviewed by PAC, the educational secretaries said their disagreement with the ministry was brought by the composition of the team to conduct the study and the way it was conducted.

The secretaries also argued before PAC that the ministry’s study was limited to those people who had not been offered employment and excluded those who were employed, schools’ proprietors and school boards.

“The original agreed composition of the team to conduct the study was to include the police, DCEO and representatives from the schools of which Phamotse negated.

“The disagreement between the educational secretaries of the schools and the ministry of education and training forced the ministry to implement “pilot” placement in the government schools and community schools,” PAC learned during its inquiries.

PAC report indicates that the most surprising thing in the placement system is that “the principal secretary of the ministry of education and training, Thabang Lebese, had informed the committee that he had been informed by TSD officers, including Sehlabi that some of the lists of the placed teachers came from the minister’s office, of which Phamotse did not comment on it”.

However, the committee recommends that the ministry should investigate and report to the parliament how much the government has lost under this placement programme where some teachers were paid without working and also revert to the usual practices and stop dumping unwanted teachers in schools.

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