Investigations of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have revealed that over M140 000 spent on two media personalities has to be repaid as it was paid unduly.
Lesotho Television’s Poso Phakisi and ‘Marafaele mohloboli of the Lesotho Times collectively utilised M143 713 in per diem allowances for international duty coverage in New York and Zimbabwe in the year 2016.
This surfaced during the sitting of the PAC this week.
The Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology appeared before the committee on Wednesday where it was reported that the state owned television cameraman collected M100 083.15 but failed to make the Prime Minister’s tour to New York in 2016 that he was assigned for.
The missing balance in the ministry’s reports appears under the Outstanding Travel Advances.
The Principal Secretary Bereng Makotoko stated that he received explanations citing that Phakisi was said to be unwell on the day of departure and was nowhere to be found despite all preparations being advanced, including the said money which already in his bank account.
“The ministry was allocated M143 713 on the outstanding travel advances for the event attended by the Prime Minister in September 2016.
Phakisi failed to attend the media coverage of the right Honourable Prime Minister on September 11 to 27, 2016 and he did not return the money he had been given and he is now been surcharged monthly payment of M200 1.66 since May 2017,” he said adding that someone on his behalf was selected.
“He was chosen to go cover but he failed and someone had to be chosen on his behalf. The explanation that I received was that all the preparations which were made on his behalf had to be cancelled, but unfortunately he did not even pay the money. I was told that he said he was not well and all the questions must be directed to his lawyer,” he said.
The ministry’s Accounting Officer Mabohlokoa Letele said Phakisi disappeared on the day of departure after receiving the money on the previous day. He said he was nowhere to be found as his cell phone was not available and at his house was also not there.
“He disappeared on the last day of departure when we were supposed to make accreditation card for him. He was nowhere to be found, we searched him at his place but failed, his phone was not found. New preparations had to be made and we had to appoint a new person on his behalf,” she said.
“We took then decided to withdraw M2 001.66 from his monthly salary because we realised that he had financial problems. He had bank loans and insurances which takes a lot of money. We wrote to the Ministry of Finance to indicate that it is the amount we can withdraw from his salary,” she explained.
Not fully satisfied by the report, the PAC demanded that Phakisi be called to appear before the Committee. However, when the Director General of Lesotho National Broadcasting Services (LNBS) Mothepane Kotele called for him she discovered that he was on sick leave, whereupon ministry officials were sent to pick him up only to discover that he was bed-ridden and seriously ill.
When questioned on how they select journalists to attend such events based on their competency, Kotele told the Committee that they have a roster where every journalist is listed to attend the events accordingly.
“We have a roster of reporters to cover the events such as the Prime Minister’s International duties, and it was his turn to go out for coverage like everyone else.
The member of the committee Mathato Phafoli questioned why the ministry paid Phakisi before the departure if there was no intention for corruption.
Kotele responded that they did it to avoid late reflection of the funds into the person’s account which would have inconvenienced them away from home.
Meanwhile, Makotoko further indicated that the Lesotho Times reporter Marafaele Mohloboli was also given M43 630.79 to attend the meeting of the Regional Adjudication Committee on the Southern African Development Committee (SADC) Media Awards in the same year held in Zimbabwe.
“Uncleared per diem interest of M43 630.79 is expected from Mohloboli who was paid for attending the meeting of the Regional Adjudication Committee on the SADC Media Awards on the 23 to 30 June 2016 in Zimbabwe. She has since started paying back the money at a monthly rate of M250 per month since July 2020,” he said.
The committee decided to adjourn the sitting saying that the then boss of LNBS, Tata Mosaqa will be called for grilling to shed light as to how a person who would have knowingly been unfit was assigned to carry-out such an important assignment.