Former PSs cry foul

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Bereng Mpaki

FORMER Principal Secretaries (PSs) have accused the government of “discriminatory treatment” after the state moved to garnish their terminal benefits in order to recover the money they owed after taking M500 000 interest free loans during their time in office.

The former PSs and the legislators received M500 000 interest free loans during the tenure of the previous government which lasted from 2015 to June 2017.

The government moved to garnish the terminal benefits of the former PSs to recover the outstanding loan repayments but it did not do the same in the case of the legislators.

In 2017, the government paid M43.54 million to settle the interest free loans of the Ninth Parliament after their term of office was prematurely ended by the 2017 snap elections.

The government had also paid M32 million to settle the outstanding debts of the Eighth Parliament when their term ended in 2015.

But in the case of the PSs, the government wrote to the Chief Executive Officer of the Public Officers’ Defined Contributory Pensions Fund, Thabo Thulo, directing him to transfer the gratuities of the former PSs into the government’s bank account at the Central Bank. The move is aimed at recouping the money that the government paid on behalf of the PSs to settle their debts.

The letter was written by the Ministry of Finance’s Principal Secretary, Nthoateng Lebona.

“The government has decided that the amounts settled on behalf of PSs should be recovered from their gratuities. You are therefore requested to transfer the gratuities of the former PSs’ to the following bank details, and please send proof of payment to the Ministry of Finance.

“Account number: 0101403715012 held at the Central Bank of Lesotho. Your advice on the correctness of the gratuity sums to each former PS will be highly appreciated,” Ms Lebona wrote.

One of the former PSs, Majakathata Mokoena Thakhisi, said they were being unfairly treated while the former legislators “who are directly responsible for the collapse of the previous government have had their loans fully repaid on their behalf”.

“Why are the MPs being treated differently from us? What principle was used here?

Another former PS said it was also unfair that the MPs’ loans were cleared in 2015 and in 2017 as this meant that they cumulatively benefited to the tune of M1 million each from the loan scheme.

For his part, political and economic commentator, Arthur Majara, said it was unfortunate that the government implemented a policy which affected people who were no longer employed and therefore had no say in the process.

“Policy shifts are normally made before the commencement of contracts so that they do not affect persons already enjoying the packages. They should only affect new employees.

“It looks like a vendetta or payback time to punish the former PSs (who were employed by the previous government) and the decision has political undertones,” Mr Majara said.

The chairperson of the Majalefa Development Movement, Ramahooana Matlosa, said the government should not discriminate against the PSs.

“If the government wants to recover the money, they must do it across the board. It should not discriminate PSs and favour MPs. It is clear discrimination,” Mr Matlosa said.

Serialong Qoo of the opposition Democratic Congress said the government had impoverished the former PSs by garnishing their gratuities.

 

 

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