LRA extends managers’ suspension

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Pascalinah Kabi

THE Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) has indefinitely extended the suspension of its five senior managers upon realising that the initial six week suspension will not suffice to complete the investigations into their alleged financial misconduct.

The five senior management officers are Chief Financial Officer, Mangangole Tsikinyane, Chief Planning and Modernisation Officer Idia Penane, Chief Legal and Policy Officer and Acting Board Secretary Seth Macheli, Commissioner of Enforcement Realeboha Mathaba and Head of Litigation Moutloatsi Lichaba.

They were suspended from work on 7 March 2018 after the LRA staff union (LERASU) presented the LRA board with damning allegations of financial and governance impropriety including the misappropriation and theft of millions of LRA funds.

They were suspended to facilitate an audit exercise to ascertain the veracity of LERASU’s allegations and it had been envisaged that the investigations would be complete by the time the six weeks lapsed last week.

However, LRA board chairperson, Robert Likhang, this week told the Lesotho Times that they had resolved to extend the suspensions because the investigations were not complete and had proved to be more complex than they had anticipated.

“It is true that the suspensions were extended last week,” Mr Likhang said.

He said the suspensions were “like any project” that one would embark on in the hope that it would be completed within a certain timeframe only to realise that “there are very complex issues that need us to extend the investigation period”.

“We just did not specify timeframes (for the renewed suspensions) because the auditing firms need to advise us on the timeframe.”

Mr Likhang however, said it was important to complete the investigations because if exonerated they would have to reinstate the officials because their absence had created a void which affected the LRA’s operations.

 

The five have since challenged their suspension by filing an application at the High Court last month seeking an order for their reinstatement.

They cited the LRA, the LRA Board and the Commissioner General of the Lesotho Revenue Authority, Thabo Khasipe as the first, second and third respondents respectively.

They also want the High Court to declare their suspension as “unlawful, invalid and null and void with no force or effect”.

They further want the court to order the respondents “to publicise the reinstatement of the applicants through all media outlets they used to publicise the suspension”.

In addition to the court application, the five have also asked the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) to investigate the corruption allegations levelled against them by the authority’s workers’ union.

They took the unusual step of requesting the anti-graft body to investigate the allegations levelled against them because they believe they are innocent and such an investigation would exonerate them.

Advocate Mathaba separately wrote to the DCEO on the 25th of March, stating among other things that, “specific allegations against me are to the effect that I am on the former LRA boss Thabo Letjama’s payroll and that I was offered a consultancy contract without following due processes”.

“It is further alleged that I had resigned from the employ of the LRA but that I was later re-employed due to my corrupt relationship with the then Commissioner General.

“In as much as the allegations…that have precipitated my suspension are spurious, I wish for these allegations to be investigated and proper action be taken in order to restore public confidence and trust in the LRA,” Adv Mathaba writes.

He further pledges his full cooperation including providing access to his personal information to facilitate the investigation.

His four suspended colleagues also penned a joint letter to the DCEO yesterday, where they  “submit ourselves to your organisation for due investigation of the serious financial impropriety allegations made against us by the LRA Staff Union (LERASU) and for which it would appear the LRA Board has decided to suspend us from duty pending a forensic audit”.

“We consider the allegations serious enough to merit your attention as the statutory body established with the specific mandate to receive and investigate any complaints alleging corruption in any public body.”

Apart from clearing their names, the quartet further state that a DCEO probe is necessary to restore public confidence in the LRA “whose image must necessarily have been critically impaired as a result of those allegations”.

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