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Junior officers drag top cop to court over pay

by Lesotho Times
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MASERU – Junior police officers who hold university degrees have dragged Police Commissioner ’Malejaka Letooane to the High Court for allegedly refusing to promote and increase their salaries in line with their academic qualifications.

Eleven police constables have alleged in court papers that Letooane, her deputy Kizito Mhlakaza, former deputy Motsotuoa Ntaote, and other senior officers were promoted immediately after their training at the Police Training College because they had university degrees or equivalent qualifications.

The constables say they expected Letooane to do the same with them but she dillydallied when she was supposed to promote them after they obtained university degrees in contravention of Lesotho Mounted Police Service policy.

They also accuse Letooane of disregarding the Public Service Ministry’s policy that new entrants with university degrees or those who improve their academic qualifications while in service should be promoted and paid accordingly.

The constables filed an application in the High Court seeking it to order Letooane to observe the LMPS, as well as the public service policies late last year after several attempts to solve the problem internally failed.

Letooane’s response was to suspend the LMPS promotion policy.

“You are requested to note and inform all staff in your areas of jurisdiction that the commissioner of police has suspended the said policy until it shall have been revised and finalised,” reads the memo Letooane sent to all district police commanders and other senior officers.

“In the interim, promotion specifications will be spelled out in the vacancy advertisements.”

This, the constables argue, contradicts the LMPS recruitment policy which states that “members of the LMPS who having served the organisation for a period of not less than two years, furthered and completed their studies at university level shall be promoted to the rank equivalent to their grades”. 

The Ministry of Public Service’s circular Number 8 of 2000, signed by the then principal secretary Semano Sekatle who is currently a minister for the same ministry, states that salaries of civil servants who attain degrees will be elevated to Grade F, which at current rate is around M5 000.

“It is notified for general information and appropriate action that degree graduate entry positions which have hitherto been on Grade E (below M5 000 at current rates) are regarded F effective from 1st April 2000,” reads the circular.

“Degree graduate officers who have just joined the Civil Service and are engaged at Grade E will accordingly be regarded F,” the circular reads.

“Serving degree graduate officers who are at Grade E or below will be regarded F while other officers who are already at F will retain their respective notches in Grade F.”

The constables want Letooane to readjust their salaries to Grade F and promote them accordingly.

In his affidavit one of the applicants, Moeketsi Mahetlane, who holds a BA degree in Information Science from the University of Johannesburg as well as a Mass Communication Diploma from the National University of Lesotho, said he did not get a satisfactory answer from Letooane when he enquired about his salary increase.

“I made a follow up regarding my promotion and adjustment of salary in terms of the LMPS promotion policy….I could not get satisfactory explanation from the police authorities,” Mahetlane said.

Mahetlane said the authorities told him and other police officers who also complained that “the earlier practice in the police service of paying police officers per their educational qualifications (was) an unlawful overpayment.”

“Following the above mentioned meetings, we went to the Ministry of Home Affairs where our meeting with the principal secretary was concluded on the note that we shall be called to get an update before end of August 2010,” Mahetlane said.

“We realised that time is whiling away and we decided to seek intervention of this honourable court,” he said.

While their application was before court, Letooane promoted 11 inspectors to the rank of senior inspector.

The promoted inspectors obtained education qualifications ranging from the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate, diplomas in security training and accounting, Bachelors of Sciences and Adult Education.

Mahetlane said additional 15 promotions were made where 12 sergeants and three constables were elevated to the rank of inspector because of their academic credentials.

“The mentioned officers …were already earning salary at grade 10 which is inspectors’ rank even before they were inspectors,” he said.

“Salary was determined on the basis of educational qualification.”

Mahetlane complained that the LMPS changed the promotion policy “when we are to be treated favourably in terms of the previous promotion policy which entitled all of us to obtain salary at Grade F irrespective of the rank and also promotion because of educational qualifications.”

In her answering affidavit, Letooane said the previous policy was suspended because it did not “comply with the lawful procedure regarding promotions and salary increments.”

“It is important to show this court from onset that an officer in terms of law must be paid salary commensurate to the position he is holding,” Letooane said.

“A university degree holder is indeed promoted provided there is a vacancy.”

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