THE Office of Auditor General which was roped in to audit the accounts of the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Lesotho Special Permit (LSP) has so far failed to complete its task due to the failure of officials in the ministry to avail the necessary documents.
The audit began in March 2018 amid suspicions that more than M11 million meant for the allowances of 600 workers employed under the LSP project could have been misappropriated.
The Lesotho Times has learnt that the workers who were stationed in different parts of South Africa during the processing of the LSPs which enable Basotho to legally reside, work and study in South Africa, have not been paid due to the alleged misappropriation of the funds.
A ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the ministry only became aware that the funds could have been misappropriated early this year after 600 employees complained that they had not been paid their allowances of up to M46 000.
The 600 employees were stationed placed in places such as Welkom, Bloemfontein, Pietermaritzburg, Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Klerksdorp, Sterkspruit and Rustenburg to assist Basotho to apply for the LSPs.
Following the workers’ complaint Home Affairs Minister Tsukutlane Au invited the office of the Auditor General to audit the ministry’s accounts as part of efforts to get to the bottom of the matter.
This publication has also learnt that Mr Au’s efforts to have the ministry’s LSP accounts audited by the Auditor General have so far been frustrated by the lack of cooperation from the ministry’s officials.
Matšepo Mohau, the Chief Information Officer in the Office of the Auditor General, this week confirmed that “the audit began in March 2018 but we have been struggling to get documents (from the Ministry of Home Affairs)”.
“We have not issued a report (on the LSP finances) because we are still waiting for management responses from the Home Affairs ministry. But even if the report had been completed, we would not be in a position to discuss its contents with you,” Ms Mohau said, adding they were not allowed to discuss their investigations with anyone until their reports had been tabled in parliament by the Minister of Finance, Moeketsi Majoro.
On his part, Mr Au confirmed that he invited the Office of the Auditor General to audit the project following complaints by former employees that they were never paid for the work they did in 2016. This was during the tenure of the former seven parties’ regime that was headed by Pakalitha Mosisili.
“I can confirm that I requested the office of the auditor general to audit the Lesotho Special Permit project following a series of complaints by former employees that they had not been paid monies that were owed to them,” Mr Au said.
“We needed to be sure that the former employees had not been paid before we start processing their payments. We also needed to know what happened with the monies that were allocated for their salaries, hence we invited the auditor general to the ministry.”
On her part, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, ‘Machabana Lemphane-Letsie, told this publication that the office of the auditor general failed to complete the audit because they were not given the necessary documents to do their work.
“It is true that the audit has not been completed because the auditors did not get documents that they had asked for and as a result we cannot ascertain if the claims put forward by the former employees are authentic. It is baffling that there are no documents to assist the auditors with their work of ensuring that all the claims were valid or not,” Ms Lemphane-Letsie said.
She added the relevant documents were supposed to have been supplied by ministry officials who worked on the LSP project prior to the advent of the current government which only came to power in the aftermath of the 3 June 2017 elections.
She said in the absence of the audit results, the Ministry of Public Service had advised them to pay the former workers “at a quarter rate” (25 percent of the per diems they would normally receive for working in South Africa).
“Their (former workers’) claims were for M11 million. While we cannot verify their claims, the fact is that the work was done in South Africa and we will pay them a quarter rate each. We have since asked the Director of National Identity and Civic Registration Tumelo Raboletsi to look into his finances and see if there is anything left that we could use to pay these claims.
“We didn’t budget for the payments in the current financial year and if Ntate Raboletsi doesn’t have money in his department, we will have to ask the Ministry of Finance to step in and assist us,” Ms Lemphane-Letsie said.