Accused of protecting Peshoane as corruption investigation lingers
BILLY NTAOTE and NTHATUOA KOESHE
An ongoing Transformation Resource Centre (TRC)’s inquiry into alleged corruption and abuse of power by the rights group Executive Director Tsikoane Peshoane has allegedly lost its credibility.
TRC staffers are accusing the Chairperson of the Board, ‘Mamolefe Petlane, of protecting Peshoane and undermining the ongoing investigations against him, thus casting doubt on the credibility of the imminent Board decisions.
Approached to comment, Petlane did not pick up our calls. She disregarded our questions sent through Email and WhatsApp and eventually dismissed our reporters when they visited her office at Maseru East on Tuesday.
The inquiry was instituted by the TRC Board into corruption allegations levelled against Peshoane by his employees in a petition that demanded his immediate expulsion as the rights group’s Executive Director.
In the middle of inquiry undertaken by Equity Forensics and Lesotho Association of Employers, the disgruntled TRC employees registered their dissatisfaction against “unbecoming conduct of the Board chairman”, Petlane.
The petitioners accused Petlane of having held a parallel investigation or a kangaroo court of her own for Peshoane to persecute employees and argue this “conduct drives them to doubt the objectivity of the board in handling their grievances”.
In a letter penned by the petitioners addressed to the board following its meeting with the staff on Monday 20th February 2022, where the employees were briefed on progress of the Peshoane corruption inquiry, they argue that Petlane made “unbecoming comments”.
Petlane is said to have accused the employees saying “…you showed that you really don’t care..” a comment the employees described as having been “very disrespectful and undermining our willingness to collaborate with the board in investigating this matter to finality”.
“We wish to make it known, unequivocally, that this comment by the Chairman leads us to question the credibility of the Chairman,” reads part of the employees’ complaints about Petlane’s conduct.
The petitioners further accused Petlane of having pinned down the employees for Peshoane to persecute amid an ongoing inquiry. They allege that Petlane convened a project meeting where she allowed Peshoane to comment on issues that are currently under investigation.
“The Chairman decided to cherry-pick the staffers implementing the PISA project and held a meeting where Peshoane was given a platform to interrogate the workers while their immediate supervisors who knew nuanced details of what transpired were not invited and Peshoane blamed the absent people for failures,” of the staffers told MNN.
“Parallel Investigations – reference is made to the PISA [project] meeting convened by the Chairman on the 22nd of February 2022…Surprisingly the Director [Peshoane] was given a platform to address the PISA personnel, wherein he went on to blame other quarters of [TRC] management for our failure to be paid December and January salaries as well as suspension of our contracts and subsequent termination…We, therefore, hold the view that this was tantamount to a parallel investigation and had the effect of undermining the ongoing investigations,” reads of the employees’ concerns.
Petlane only disclosed the purported inquiry’s progress a day after she told our team that visited her office, she cannot meet them because she was tight up in a Zoom meeting, having not picked our calls on several occasions.
The board said it had initially envisaged concluding the investigations which are conducted by independent consultants—Lesotho Association of Employers and Equity Forensics Pty Ltd—within five to seven days but the deadline was extended by seven more days.
The board said it extended the investigations’ timeframe owing to “the magnitude and the scope of the assignment that increased, this required the board to extend by further seven days”.
The board said all concerned parties have been cooperative and supportive and are quite forthcoming with needed information which would assist in making ultimate informative recommendations to the board.
In an email thread seen by MNN and Newsday, responding to grievances of the employees, one board member Francis Idris, said “I went [through] the email and I came up with one conclusion: The staff behind this kind of letter and rhetoric are people whose minds are made up to achieving one result. They want things to be done their way or else it is a failure”.
The board member further said: “we must push on with our work. The investigation will yield results for the better of TRC”.
While another board member, Motṡeoa Senyane said “I totally agree with you Ntate Francis. It is so sad that the staff is trying to push the Board to do their dirty work”.
Attempts to get comments from Senyane and Idris were unsuccessful at the time of publication.