Manyokole vows not to cherry-pick cases for prosecution

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 Pascalinah Kabi

NEW Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) boss, Mahlomola Manyokole, has rubbished allegations that he was “parachuted” to the top post to ensure that investigations into certain high profile cases never see the light of day.

Mr Manyokole is a qualified and admitted attorney.

Among others, the DCEO is investigating possible corruption in the government fleet services tender. (See story above). The DCEO is also investigating corruption allegations levelled against Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader Mothetjoa Metsing. Some sources have alleged that Mr Metsing has promised to support Prime Minister Thomas Thabane against a no confidence motion that has been filed against him in parliament by the Professor Nqosa Mahao-led faction of his own All Basotho Convention (ABC) party. The sources say they suspect that it is for this reason that the government is seeking to ensure that Mr Metsing is not prosecuted for alleged corruption.

The DCEO first launched investigations after suspicious deposits were allegedly made into Mr Metsing’s bank accounts between 2013 and 2014 when the latter was deputy prime minister. This was after the controversial allocation of a M120 million tender to a company known as Big Bravo Construction Company for the construction of roads in the Ha-Matala and Ha-Leqele villages of Maseru.

The company is alleged to have won the tender at Mr Metsing’s instigation. It was subsequently accused of doing a shoddy job and leaving road works uncompleted two months before the contract ended in 2015 but after having been handsomely paid by for the alleged shoddy work by the Maseru City Council.

The DCEO is also investigating the M140 million senate building tender after Senate president ‘Mamonaheng Mokitimi alleged that the tendering process was flawed.

Ms Mokitimi made the allegations after the principal secretary in the Ministry of Public Works, Mothabathe Hlalele, awarded the tender to a Chinese company, Qing Jian Group, which was initially disqualified in 2012. Mr Hlalele is said to belong to the ABC faction which is loyal to Dr Thabane in the latter’s struggle for control of the party with the Mahao faction.

Mr Manyokole recently demanded the files pertaining to these and other high profile cases from DECO investigators. He has started processes to suspend the DCEO’s Chief Investigating Officer, Thabiso Thibeli, for allegedly refusing to hand over files and dockets of the cases.

His moves to suspend Mr Thibeli, coming barely two weeks after he (Mr Manyokole) took over at the DCEO, have sparked allegations within the DCEO that he was brought in by Dr Thabane to determine the cases that should be investigated and ensure that others never see the light of day.

But in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week, Mr Manyokole rubbished all these allegations saying his appointment had nothing to do with politics.

“To my best of knowledge and recollection, my appointment had nothing to do with politics,” Mr Manyokole said, adding, Dr Thabane had in fact appointed him to investigate high profile cases such as those which had been exposed by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) where the country had allegedly lost millions of maloti through corruption.

Mr Manyokole said his main reason of asking for files was to acquaint himself with what has been happening as he was now the new boss responsible for the prosecution of cases.  He had to have a full appreciation of all the cases before the DCEO for him to do his work properly.

“I am responsible for all the investigations and prosecutions of DCEO cases. As head of this organisation, I have to give my blessings to any case that goes to court. It has to have my blessings because if there is any wrongful prosecution, the DCEO stands to pay damages for malicious prosecution.

“I have to be comfortable that there is a solid case in each and every case that we send to court and that is why parliament chose a director general who has a legal qualification. It was strategically done so that I have the last word on whether or not we have a case to prosecute. The buck stops with me and so all the high profile cases have to come to my desk. I am reviewing them and also tracking progress.”

He said he was not merely interested in the Metsing and Mokitimi cases because of the duo’s political standing but had asked for all cases including those of individuals who did not have any political profiles.  Mr Manyokole said there was nothing untoward about requesting files for the cases that Mr Thibeli had been working on. He said he had issued similar requests for case files to all the other DCEO investigators.  He said any other person appointed in his role would have done the same. It was not feasible to expect any new appointee to the helm of such an important body to arrive and twiddle their fingers instead of getting down to work by reviewing what had been happening.

“It is not only him (Mr Thibeli) who got the email to hand over files. I asked for a report on Mr Metsing because I was told he is the one handling the case.

“I didn’t say the investigations into the case should stop. I said bring the case file so that I can review the progress. I was told that my predecessor, (Advocate Borotho Matsoso) had announced that Mr Metsing’s case was ripe for prosecution but I don’t know why it was not brought to court.

“I don’t know why he (Adv Matsoso) announced (that case was ready for prosecution). I don’t know why he failed to arrest him (Mr Metsing). I don’t know why he failed to have him appear in court. I did not want to rely on somebody’s opinion on the case. But I needed the file to know what had happened so that I can make an informed decision,” Mr Manyokole said, adding that people should stop pre-judging him but give him an opportunity to do his work.

On the senate issue, Mr Manyokole said he had been briefed that the case was reported to the DCEO a long time but there had not been any progress.

He said he was also informed that one of the investigators who was assigned to the case had resigned, causing further delays in concluding the investigations. All he thus wanted was to acquaint himself with all the facts before deciding on an appropriate way forward regarding each and every case before the DCEO.

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