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Civil servants, treasury on collision course

by Lesotho Times
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MASERU – The deputy attorney general Tsebang Putsoane has been roped into the ongoing fight between civil servants and money lenders over loan payments.

More than 100 civil servants had demanded that the treasury department stops deducting money from their salaries to pay their debts to three prominent money lending institutions pending finalisation of their court case.

The civil servants are suing Select Management Services, Afrisure (EEZY Management Services) and B-Blue Financial Services in the High Court for unlawful loan terms and conditions.

They borrowed money from the institutions but now they say the companies are ripping them off and the government should stop deducting money from their salaries to pay the loans.

They complain that the three companies are charging interest rates far more than the 25 percent stipulated by the law.

The civil servants on August 4 wrote a letter through their lawyers to the Accountant General and the attorney general seeking them to instruct the treasury department to stop deducting money from their salaries to pay the three companies.

They suggested that the deduction, which is made by a way of stop order, should cease with effect from the end of August.

Putsoane had promised, through his letter dated 7th August 2009, that the government could only stop deductions with effect from September.

But Putsoane has now changed tact and has written another letter to the civil servants’ lawyers saying the government was no longer in a position to stop the deductions.

“What we wish to point out, for the present purposes, is that, the document instructing or authorising our client (treasury) to make deductions bears the name of the money lender concerned, in whose favour, our client was authorised to make deductions,” said Putsoane in the letter dated August 18, 2009.

“The document appears to have also been signed by the borrower (who will be your client) and the money lender involved.”

“We are instructed by client (treasury) that, your clients’ instructions to stop making deductions to the money lenders concerned, which is a revocation of the instructions earlier given by your clients, will be carried out by our client if they come in the similar manner as the original instructions to make deductions, that is, money lenders concerned should also append their stamp or signatures as was the case with the original instructions.”

“Alternatively, our client (treasury) will stop making deductions if ordered by a court of law.”

Putsoane’s letter was addressed to the civil servants’ lawyer, Advocate Kananelo Mosito.

Putsoane’s letter has angered the civil servants who are now threatening to sue the treasury if the deductions are not stopped forthwith.

The civil servants’ lawyer, Mosito, wrote a forceful letter to Putsoane that if he does not stop the deductions he will be “clearly indicating bias in favour of the moneylenders”.

“We reiterate our clients’ position that if the money lenders feel prejudiced by our clients’ instructions to their employers, they are free to resort to the courts of law.

“We hope you will appreciate the importance of this communication. Should you renege upon the promise not to proceed with the deductions on the basis of the aforementioned money lenders objection, you will in effect be interfering with our clients’ salaries contrary to clients’ instructions and you will be clearly indicating a bias in favour of the money lenders by refusing to honour our clients’ instructions.”

Mosito has threatened to sue the government if the treasury department continued deducting civil servants’ salaries.

“Our clients have instructed us that if you deduct any monies from our clients’ salaries contrary to our clients’ instruction you will be acting unlawfully and we shall sue you for that unlawful interference with clients’ salaries,” Mosito said.

Sources told the Lesotho Times that Mosito held a meeting with civil servants on Tuesday to discuss a way forward after Putsoane has reneged on his promise.

Putsoane’s decision seems to have been triggered by a letter received from B Blue Financial Services’ lawyers.

“We draw your attention to the fact that the stop orders in favour of our client which your client (treasury) intends revoking on the instructions of the applicants (civil servants) in the above matter are “irrevocable” instruments in favour of our client which can only be revoked with the concurrence of our client,” the letter dated August 13 says.

“The purported unilateral revocation of the stop orders by the borrowers/applicants aforesaid has been made without our clients consent or concurrence.”

“We are instructed to advise you that our client does not give consent to the purported revocation of the stop orders by the applicants/borrowers,” the letter said.

The case is expected to proceed next Monday.

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