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TRC boss sent home pending corruption probe

BILLY NTAOTE

Tsikoane Peshoane, an Executive Director for Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) was sent on forced leave with immediate effect following a damning petition by the organisation’s staff to the Board, accusing him of alleged negligence, corruption, violation of labour rights and tax laws.

Hape Moshabesha and fifteen other disgruntled employees penned a petition on February 1 to the TRC Board pushing for immediate dismissal of Peshoane as they alleged that his negligence and violation of labour laws cost the organisation over M14-million.

The petitioners listed a litany of grievances faced by the organisation owing to Peshoane’s leadership style that they argue alienated management in decision making and drove the organisation to the verge of financial distress.

They argue that Peshoane’s actions led to TRC having a qualified audit that prompted the European Union to cancel project funding to the tune of €800,000.00 (about M14 million) last year while the organisation had already lost unspecified funding from Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary in the same year.

Responding to our questions, David Healy who is the EU Delegation Political Counsellor, said: “the [TRC] potential funding did not materialise due to contractual issues and until today [February 4], the Delegation was not aware of these allegations…The Delegation will follow closely the outcome of the deliberations of the Board of TRC and, in case the claims are confirmed, will take all necessary measures of redress.”

MNN understands that upon receipt of the petition, the TRC Board hastily acted and sent Peshoane and his employees on a leave of absence to give it time and space to deal with the employees’ petition. Only a few staffers are left behind.

Peshoane told MNN that he could not comment on the allegations levelled against him as the matter is handled by his superiors [the Board].

The Board Chairperson, ’Mamolefe Petlane, acknowledged receipt to the employees’ petition. Speaking to MNN, Petlane said, “the Board asked Peshoane and his employees to give them space [go on leave of absence] to deal with their grievances”. “We will [soon] be sitting for the first time to look at their petition in detail,” she said.

In their petition, Moshabesha and others told the board “it is with great sadness that we, the TRC staff write this letter to the board, requesting intervention on the conduct of the Executive Director which is threatening the organisation’s welfare in general and that of the staff in particular”.

Their grievances include among others, accusations of unfair labour practices, poor financial and project management, misuse of organisational assets; staff and organisational welfare issues.

Funds mismanagement

The disgruntled employees said that TRC is in a grave financial predicament as a result of Peshoane’s centralised decision-making approach. Moshabesha and others pointed the following as major unilateral decisions that resulted in a profound impact on the organisation’s economic state.

  • diversion of funds for the production and publication of a book on Coalition Politics in Lesotho that was never planned or budgeted for in any of the projects;
  • M300 000 over expenditure on a purchase of a car;
  • frequent trips to Thaba-Bosiu to supposedly write proposals and reports that were not budgeted for;
  • hiring of certain personnel that he single-handedly decided were needed against decisions that were collectively made by management and several smaller decisions on the implementation of certain activities such as the IEC case and others.

The petitioners told the Board that when Peshoane was cautioned from making unilateral he would “visibly become upset and mock the managers during monthly reflection meetings”. They further said two employees in the finance department resigned ahead of the impending financial crisis which they foresaw and warned Peshoane who did not listen.

Moshabesha and others told the Board “Some projects implementation commences with … project funds already used up and committed to other debts … incurred at the director’s instruction”.

The Board was also told Peshoane does not honour Corporation Agreements that TRC has with funders as their funds are always diverted to other activities he claimed were “very important”.

“For example, EU [European Union] paid the first trench of the project money, instead of the organisation using the money for the implementation, it will be moved in and out of the project accounts doing other things which are not project related.

“The finance team is always shouted at when they pay the things that have been budgeted for in the project such as accommodation for execution of activities, they are told that they prioritise useless things,” reads the employee’s petition.

False reports and unclean audit

The employees further accuse Peshoane of having frustrated projects delivery by diverting funds meant for their execution leading to falsified reports and a qualified audit.

“After he did this, he then saw it fit to say derogatory statements when his junior stuff did not produce any meaningful achievements…

“This made for a rather troublesome audit that led to some of his officers compromising their integrity and manufacturing achievements to be reported on while in actual terms they are really not there.

“The result was qualified reports which in turn perpetuated the financial crisis the organisation has,” reads the disgruntled employees’ petition.

The petitioners also told the Board that under Peshoane the TRC reported false information to funders as a result of poor implementation of activities risking funders blacklisting the organisation.

“…the US Embassy project that was meant to be implemented in 40 schools and only one activity was implemented in the entire project and the money used for other things that are not project related,” reads the petition.

Negligence

Peshoane is also accused of gross abuse and damage of organisational assets with impunity by his employees.

He is said to have had three accidents with a Twin Cab GD6 on Saturday nights while he was running personal errands with the organisational vehicle and never paid for repairs on all three occasions.

“Even more troubling is that he totalled the organisation’s Toyota Prado while using it for personal reasons yet again and to this day, the car is not fixed,” said the petitioners to the Board.

Moshabesha and others further accuse Peshoane of having spent M10,000.00 on fuelling a vehicle used without logbook during the month of January yet there is no project implemented.

Loss of funding

The petitioners told the board that the organisation is now on the verge of collapse due to a loss of funding from funders.

“Early in 2021, the organisation lost funding from the Sisters of Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM). The funding was contributing towards addressing issues of access to water in Polihali.

“This funding was helping the organisation in contributing towards salaries. The organisation lost this funding due to issues of human resources which were not handled well.

“Late, in 2021 the organisation lost possible funding from European Union (EU) this is after EU wrote to the organisation that they will grant TRC funding of € 800,000.00 but on the last day when the agreement was supposed to be signed, TRC received a letter of regret.

“We believe this is because there is an employee who approached EU regarding the same issues we are addressing here especially on the labour [concerns],” said the petitioners.

The employees also accused Peshoane of failure to comply with tax laws.

Often, the employees said Peshoane diverted funds for taxes remittance to the Lesotho Revenue Authority for other purposes and left the organisation indebted to the taxman. They said he used tax money to pay for legal fees in a case in which the TRC took the IEC and political parties to court.

Unfair labour practices

The employees accuse Peshoane of having violated contractual obligations between the organisation and its employees.

The employees said at the beginning of 2020 after the change of organisational structure that led people to reapply for new positions, the staff received new employment contracts which were set to expire in December this year.

These new contracts, the employees told the Board that they included benefits such as 13th Cheque but in November last year wanted to remove this but the management warned him that would constitute a breach of contract.

The petitioners said it was later decided contracts would be cancelled and 13th Cheques would be disbursed for 2020, but Peshoane later cancelled the 13th Cheque disbursement.

In January, Moshabesha and others told the board they were introduced to new contracts that included unexplained salary cuts and increases for some employees.

Peshoane is also accused of having solely demoted some employees for disagreeing with him without any performance appraisal being taken. They allege that Peshoane terrorised employees through spontaneous organisational structure changes used to demote or promote.

They further accuse him of consistent violation of recruitment procedure as set out in the organisation’s Human Resource Policy.

The petitioners requested the board to reinstate their initially terminated contracts and that their salaries be reinstated for the owed months of December and January.

The employees noted they already have a possible recovery plan that could be deployed to ensure the organisation manages to retain its good standing beyond Peshoane’s tenure.

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