Cabinet officer acquitted of corruption charges

MASERU — Cabinet deputy principal secretary, Thato Masiloane, who was facing eight charges of corruption, has been acquitted.

Masiloane, together with four other senior officials in the Prime Minister’s office, were being accused of manipulating tender procedures in the PM’s office to benefit companies to which they are connected through friends and relatives.

But a disciplinary tribunal has found that there was no evidence to link Masiloane to the various acts of corruption.

The charge sheet indicated that Masiloane had in December 2009 unlawfully authorised payment of M12 997.50 to Clean Firm, a company allegedly owned by her friend “for no valid reason other than the consideration of friendship, thus failing to serve the people of Lesotho with respect and promote their welfare and lawful interests”.

In September last year Masiloane also allegedly authorised payment of a further M27 284.15 to Clean Firm.

She was also accused of failing to recuse herself in the transaction “thus failing to excel in your endeavours by being an example to others”.

Masiloane was also charged with failing to perform her duties and exercise her powers diligently and impartially and to the best of her ability because she unlawfully authorised the payment to Clean Firm.

The charge sheet said she brought the public service into disrepute.

Masiloane’s charges emanated from audit investigation by Nexus Forensic Services, a company engaged by Finance Minister Timothy Thahane earlier this year to probe rampant corruption in all government departments.

A report after the investigation alleged that Masiloane had been involved in the unlawful authorisation of the transactions.

Forensic auditor, Cornelia Engelbretch, alleged that Masiloane “is a friend of the owner of the cleaning company” Clean Firm.

The tribunal however found that there was no evidence that the two were friends.

“The paradox is, however, that the auditor has not disclosed the basis of her testimony that the two are friends,” reads the judgment passed by principal secretary in the Ministry of Education, Motsoakapa Makara, on August 8 but which was only seen by the Lesotho Times this week.

“The tribunal maintains so despite being conscientious of the testimony that the DPS had disclosed to her in the interview that the owner of the firm and herself were friends.

“The tribunal finds that the auditor ought to have clearly and convincingly disclosed the basis for such conclusion,” Makara said.

He also said Engelbretch ought to have warned Masiloane that the interview could culminate into a disciplinary or criminal proceedings being instituted against her.

“This would have made the DPS to conscientiously qualify her relationship with the owner of the firm,” Makara said in the judgment.

Masiloane told the tribunal in her response that Clean Firm was given a job in the Prime Minister’s office after she had intervened in an emergency situation.

She said there was a water leakage which was posing a danger to the public assets inside the offices of the attorney general and government secretary.

“The impression which she gave was that the situation demanded an immediate counter-response, otherwise damage of significance could have happened in the said offices,” said Makara in the judgment.

The tribunal found that Masiloane was called to the scene by the principal technical officer but she referred him to an officer who was responsible for calling a company that would address the problem.

A company that was called was overwhelmed by the work and Masiloane advised that the company which had previously proven itself to have the requisite capacity should be called to provide the service.

“This indicates that two companies had coincidentally been engaged for the purpose,” Makara said.

“The emphasis here should be upon the fact that an emergency situation, which could result in irreparable damage, could have occasioned.

“It is not an armchair judgment situation or an academic one.

“The company had previously acquitted itself by demonstrating its competence to deal with the challenge. Given the emergency it was a matter of immediate discretion,” Makara said.

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