Suspected of using a LCA registered company to divert money and deregistering it when his term ends
He shuns the allegations saying all he did was within the law
Former Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) Chief Executive Officer Tšeliso ‘Mokela has been fingered for allegedly “capturing” the Authority during his three year tenure.
‘Mokela who was previously the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Communications Science and Technology for 10 years, from 2002-2012 is suspected of looting the Authority funds through a company called Lesotho Network Information Centre (LsNIC) during the period 2016-2018.
He left the Authority in August 2018.
‘Mokela was succeeded by ‘Mamarame Matela who is the current LCA Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
The position of the CEO is on a fixed term contract of three years.
According to various sources from within the Authority, a local Audit firm, Quantum advisory Services, has been tasked to do a ‘clean sweep’ of the LCA financials.
The firm is reported to have started its operations about a month ago conducting a forensic financial audit.
Sources that spoke to Newsday on condition of anonymity revealed that some of the triggers of the audit included, but not limited to, staff loans which have allegedly been administered by the finance department outside the LCA governing laws, the registration and deregistration of LsNIC which ‘Mokela was a Director and a member as per trade documents, and ‘Mokela’s bonuses received when he vacated office.
“What prompted the audit is suspicion that ntate ‘Mokela used LsNIC to make money for himself and when queries arose around the existence of the company sometime towards the end of last year, instead of responses it was deregistered in September, just a month after he left LCA,” a source told this paper.
According to LCA 2016/2017 annual report, LsNIC expenses were recorded to have been M1, 672, 654 with an explanation that the major activities were to establish the company, this included acquisition of its assets and transferring those with third parties.
“The Authority has incorporated a company called Lesotho Network Information Centre (LsNIC) per section 5 of the Communications Act 2012 to administer the Internet domain names. The company was registered with the Registrar of companies in 2016 and it is 100% owned by LCA. During the year, the major activities were to establish the company, this included acquisition of its assets and transferring those with third parties. The costs incurred for these activities were M1, 672, 654. It is anticipated that the operations of the company will commence in the next financial year (2017/18),” the report noted.
The 2018/2019 financial similarly recorded M 1, 315, 235 of the company’s expenses noting it made minimal revenue.
“During the year, the majority activities were to acquire remaining assets and transferring those with third parties and training registrars. The cost incurred for these activities were M1, 315, 235. The operations of the Company commenced in 2017/2018 with minimal revenue collected towards the end of the financial year,” the report indicated, however, not providing LsNIC’s financial records.
Trade companies have recorded the company registering on January 14, 2016 and deregistered on September 7, 2018.
The company’s registration was followed by an approval letter to register signed by Matšeliso Lehohla who was the Registrar of Companies.
The letter signed on Jan, 11, 2016 reads: “I Matšeliso Lehohla, Registrar of Companies approved that Lesotho Network Information Centre proprietary be registered without the word “Limited” to its name. I am satisfied that the existence of Lesotho Network Information Centre is for the benefit of the public and that payment of dividends to members is prohibited.
Provided that the company is registered with the particulars of the company articles of incorporation on which provides that the company prohibits payment of dividends to its members and shall apply its profit and income, if any, to promoting its objective as provided for in the attached particulars of the company and articles of incorporation; provided further that during its existence, the company applies its profits or other income, if any, in promoting its objective and prohibits payments of dividends to its member. This approval may be revoked in accordance with the Companies Act of 2011.”
For the duration of its operations, it had been using the LCA address.
“Even when it attempted to recruit people, it did so using the LCA and people who we have working at LCA now, though hired under the pretense of LsNIc were given LCA contracts,” another source told this publication.
Research investigation led this reporter to a list of LsNic activities advertised with an email address bearing the LCA address; firstname.lastname@example.org
When contacted to confirm the audit, LCA spokesperson Tšiu Tšiu indicated the authority staff was made aware of a planned audit.
“We were told that there was an audit to be embarked on and we were asked to corporate about a month ago but no further details were shared,” he said.
When asked if LCA has ever had a forensic audit before, Tšiu noted it was a first to his knowledge.
“I am aware of the office of the Auditor General’s annual audit of our books, but I don’t recall a private company ever conducting such,” he said.
This paper contacted ‘Mokela to comment on the allegations levelled against him.
He told Newsday that following receipt of a summon letter to report to the LCA for an interview he opted to contact the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) to investigate him.
“I refused to attend that kangaroo court of crooks who are doing their master’s desires. There is nothing to hide on my side. I did receive a letter from the current CEO in July, but I refused to go because, one, they refused to furnish me with documents so that I prepare and secondly, they don’t have a right.”
‘Mokela’s letter from the Authority indicated he needed to avail himself to answer on the bonuses he paid to himself on the 2016/2017 financial year and his salary increment for the 2016 financial year.
He told Newsday that when the board deliberated on issues directly affecting him, he never attended the sitting.
“It is ridiculous that I am asked finances paid to me because according to rules of the board, when an issue affects a person, they have to recuse themselves and that is exactly what I did.
“I am telling you now that the so called audit will not find anything, and I know that they are stuck and can’t finish their work because the ‘dirt’ they wanted on me doesn’t exist.” He said.
When asked why the company was deregistered, ‘Mokela indicated that the office of the Auditor General advised that the roles of the company be absorbed by LCA because LsNIC proved to be not profitable.
“The process to deregister the company started before September and it is a process which I can’t defend, but the reason behind the deregistration followed an advice we received from the office of the Auditor General,” he said.
According to the company’s website http://www.nic.ls/origin.html , Lesotho Network Information Centre (LsNIC) proprietary was founded in January 2016 as a non-profit making organization registered under the Lesotho Companies Act of 2011. Its mandate is to manage the Lesotho Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) dot ls (.ls). LsNIC is founded by Lesotho Communications Authority (L.C.A.) The ccTLD is a critical national resource; it has been managed at Rhodes University in South Africa for some time, while the sponsoring organization and the administrative contacts have been within the country, the technical contact with the infrastructure has been outside the country.
The formation of LsNIC brought the re-delegation of the technical contact back to the country, the network infrastructure and the nameservers are hosted and managed within the country. This gives the country much control and freedom on how the ccTLD is operated to benefit the nation it serves. With the massive adoption of Internet, domain name registration has become one of the most dynamic industries, and having everything in our control as the country, will benefit to have up to date policies, rules and procedures.
The .ls domain was first established and delegated in January 1993. The National University of Lesotho (N.U.L) was the sponsoring authority. Due to lack of technical expertise then, Rhodes University acted as the registry for .ls and technical authority. They hosted and managed the primary servers.”