LRA boss suspended

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Thabo Khasipe

’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE LESOTHO Revenue Authority (LRA) Board of Directors has suspended Commissioner-General (CG) Thabo Khasipe ahead of an investigation into alleged “contravention of his contractual obligations”.

The suspension which took effect on Monday comes barely two months after Mr Khasipe was appointed to the position after a year-long search for a suitable candidate.

In a press release issued on Tuesday, the LRA also announced that the Board of Directors had appointed the tax authority’s Chief Planning and Modernisation Officer Idia Penane to replace CG Khasipe in the interim.

The Lesotho Times also saw a copy of an internal memo to all LRA staff informing them of the suspension issued by Board Chairperson Lehlomela Mohapi.

Part of the memo, dated 6 February 2017, reads: Two months ago, I announced to you with excitement and optimism about the future of the Authority, the appointment of the new Commissioner-General, Mr Thabo Khasipe. It is with a heavy heart that today I announce that the Board has suspended the CG pending investigations into alleged contraventions of his contractual obligations.”

Contacted for comment yesterday, CG Khasipe refused to comment on the matter, citing his confidentiality obligations with the authority.

“I am sorry I cannot give you anything,” Mr Khasipe said, adding, “I suggest you contact the board chairperson on the matter.”

CG Khasipe is a chartered financial analyst who previously worked for the LRA as deputy commissioner-general from 2004 to 2007 before being appointed Lesotho’s ambassador to Kuwait.

Sources privy to the matter told this publication CG Khasipe’s suspension could have something to do with his alleged failure to file tax returns while he was still an ambassador.

“The issue of tax returns was apparently raised to the board in an internal vetting report prior to his recruitment and the Board decided that it was not significant as they wanted Khasipe for the job,” said the sources who requested anonymity for fear of victimization.

“The Board was well aware of it (tax returns) even though today they want to make it an issue.”

The sources also alluded to the “rivalry” between CG Khasipe and other senior LRA officials such as Advocate Realeboha Mathaba who was acting commissioner-general for six months while the search went on for a candidate to fill the position on a permanent basis.

The position fell vacant after former LRA boss, Thabo Letjama’s resignation in November after six years at the helm.

Adv Mathaba also applied for the post which was eventually clinched by CG Khasipe.

An LRA official who claimed to be privy to the issue said that the now suspended LRA boss, was blaming his demise on Adv Mathaba.

“Khasipe thinks that Mathaba could have dug up information about him (Khasipe) to try and get him disqualified at the time they were vying for the job since he (Mathaba) held the position of Commissioner of Enforcement, Intelligence and Investigations,” said the official speaking on condition of anonymity.

However, Adv Mathaba rubbished the allegations in an interview this week, saying he could not have dug up information on CG Khasipe since he had no power to influence the people who eventually appointed him.

“These allegations are very unfortunate and if there is anyone who has blown the whistle on the CG it simply can’t be me,” Adv. Mathaba said.

“Investigations were made way before former CG, Thabo Letjama left and I was not even involved; unless there is someone who would like to think that I am a prophet and I knew way ahead that Mr Letjama would leave and then CG Khasipe would be appointed to replace him.

“I am not a law unto myself and I can never abuse my power for any nefarious outcomes.  As a lawyer, I am fully aware that abuse of power is a very serious offence.  I work ethically and in accordance with the rules and I am always ready to account for my actions.”

Meanwhile, the Lesotho Revenue Authority Staff Union (LERASU) said CG Khasipe’s suspension had come as a shock to the whole staff and “this has affected us mainly because LRA has a vetting system in place which every employee undergoes after having succeeded in the interviews before assuming responsibilities of the office in question”.

At the time of Mr Khasipe’s appointment Finance Minister Tlohang Sekhamane said he had been selected on the basis of his “outstanding track record” along with his experience of serving as LRA deputy CG.

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