Lekhetho Ntsukunyane and Keiso Mohloboli
Acting Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Health, Piet McPherson, was booted out of office last week and has allegedly refused to surrender a government vehicle he was using as well as keys to three offices.
Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka yesterday confirmed writing Dr McPherson’s letter terminating his commission with the ministry but insisted he was not aware “of anything else”.
According to Mr Mphaka, Dr McPherson’s contract as the ministry’s Director of Clinical Services ended last month and government had decided not to renew it. He had held the position since October 2008.
Meanwhile, after the ministry suspended Lefu Manyokole as PS in May this year pending investigations into his professional conduct, Dr McPherson had been appointed as his replacement, albeit in an acting capacity.
However, after the ministry resolved not to renew his contract as Clinical Services Director, Mr Mphaka said a decision had also been made that Dr McPherson should leave the PS post last Wednesday.
Mr Mphaka further said ’Mamoruti Tiheli, who is also the ministry’s HIV and AIDS Consultant, had since been appointed Acting PS.
However, sources in the health ministry yesterday told the Lesotho Times that Dr McPherson was still in possession of the government property despite being asked to surrender the car and keys to two directors’ offices and his former office “on countless occasions”.
Asked about the issue yesterday, Ms Teheli confirmed she had not received the said property from Dr McPherson, adding this was making it difficult for her to operate.
“Dr McPherson has not handed over the government vehicle and office keys as expected, and I don’t really know his reasons for not doing so because he has not shared them with me.
“Anyway, the office of the Ministry of Health Principal Secretary is still operational even though there are challenges here and there. For instance, I have to wait for the secretaries to open the door for me because I don’t have the key so I can’t come to work early. I am also currently using a vehicle from another department, which causes a lot of inconveniences at times,” Ms Teheli said.
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On his part, Mr Mphaka said he could not intervene in whatever problems might be happening in the ministry.
“My job was just to follow the government’s instruction that I should terminate Dr McPherson’s employment and appoint ’Me Teheli as his replacement. It’s now up to ‘Me Teheli to see how she can recover the property if it’s true that it has not been handed over because she now has the authority.”
Contacted for comment yesterday, Dr McPherson sounded surprised and insisted he did not have the property in question.
“It is not true that I am still keeping government property. The vehicle I was using is there at the ministry; I left it there last week. And the keys to the offices are supposed to be with the secretaries, not me.
“This looks like a personal fight against me now, yet I am not fighting anyone myself. If officials in the ministry are complaining that I did not handover the property, they should communicate that with me, not you, the media. There has been no one from the ministry who has approached me concerning what you are now asking me about. I am really surprised. I am not that type of person who can refuse to handover government property. It is unfair for anyone to tarnish my name that way.
“Now that I know there are people in the ministry who are out to tarnish my image, I will have to go back and iron things out. It is very unfortunate that somebody is doing this to me,” the prominent Maseru-based physician said.