Minister clashes with PS


…Minister seeks PM Thabane’s intervention

…PS accused of leaking confidential cabinet memo

Pascalinah Kabi

HEALTH Minister Nyapane Kaya has sought the intervention of Prime Minister, Thomas Thabane, to help resolve intense feuds with his principal secretary, Monaphathi Maraka, whom he accuses of serious insubordination.

Authoritative sources said Minister Kaya was so miffed with his PS over differences on various administrative issues. Minister Kaya accuses Mr Maraka of refusing to take instructions from him. The Minister had gone to the extent of accusing his PS  of leaking confidential cabinet discussions, allegations Mr Maraka vehemently denied in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week.

Such was the intensity of the animosity between Mr Kaya and Mr Maraka that their working relationship was no longer viable, the sources said.

The sources said that Mr Kaya was up in arms with his PS for allegedly leaking a confidential cabinet memo proposing that the government must terminate its contract with the Tšepong Consortium to operate Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Service Hospital (QMMH) in Maseru.

The confidential cabinet memo was reportedly leaked to the World Bank which was instrumental in the signing of the 18-year Public Private Partnership (PPP) agreement which the government inked with Tšepong Consortium (formed by Netcare Group and local companies) in 2008.

The institution was opened in October 2011 and it replaced Queen Elizabeth II Hospital as the country’s major referral health facility in a deal that was originally hailed as a viable private public sector partnership (PPP) operation.

However, the deal has had many critics who accuse the Tsepong Consortium of depleting government coffers and gobbling a third of the entire health budget.

Last year, Mr Kaya stated that the government wanted out of what he described as a lopsided contract, saying the hospital could not justify its allocation of M549 444 million from the M2.5 billion meant for the entire health sector while it did not have the capacity to treat cancer patients or providing dialysis services for kidney patients.

According to the sources, Mr Kaya believes that Mr Maraka leaked a cabinet memo in which the minister advised government to cut ties with Tšepong Consortium.

“The cabinet tasked ministers Kaya, Moeketsi Majoro (Finance) and Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Nthabiseng Ramakoae, to work together to find a lasting solution to the QMMH problem,” one source said.

“Ntate Kaya presented a memo to the cabinet meeting, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki, proposing that the only possible and lasting solution to QMMH problems was for government to disengage itself from this partnership.”

The source said the cabinet then advised the ministerial committee to further examine the matter and Energy minister, Mokoto Hloaele, was also added to the committee to ensure that it would come up with the best recommendations on the QMMH issue.

“Ntate Kaya was however, surprised when he received a phone call from a (World) Bank requesting a meeting over the same confidential cabinet memo.

“The bank said they were ready to mediate between the government and Tšepong to renegotiate the contract as disengaging from the contract would not be in the best interests of both parties. The Minister is adamant that  the PS is the one who leaked the information to that bank,” the source said.

Another source alleged Mr Kaya and Mr Maraka were also at loggerheads after the latter refused to take certain orders from the minister.

The source said the PS disobeyed the minister’s directive to write to the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offenses (DCEO), requesting it to investigate the Health ministry’s Director General, Nyane Letsie, over a case in which her private expenses were allegedly paid by the government.

“The PS also requested M340 million from the government contingency fund without involving the minister. This and many other issues are continuing to put a strain on their already poor working relationship,” the source said.

Another government source said Mr Kaya has since asked Dr Thabane to intervene in the matter.

“The minister reported the PS to the Prime Minister who promised him to look into the matter and it seems the relationship between the two is deteriorating even further,” the source said.

Attempts to get Mr Kaya’s comments were fruitless as his mobile phone was unavailable as he is said to be on an official trip to India.

Mr Maraka said in an interview this week that he previously enjoyed a warm working relationship with the minister and deputy minister, ‘Manthabiseng Phohleli, but “some of our junior staff and senior management are working hard to come between us”.

“There has never been an incident where I prevented the minister from doing his job. I do my job under his leadership. He has his role and I have mine. Both our roles are simply to work hard to serve this nation,” Mr Maraka said.

He added: “I am not sure what he (the minister) means when he says I am preventing him from working but I have since realised that junior staff at times sow divisions between us.”

“I am prepared to work with my honourable minister at all times and in a situation where our working relationship has deteriorated, I don’t want to escalate that situation but rather work hard to restore the warm working relationship we once enjoyed.”

Asked if it was true that he leaked the cabinet memo to the said bank, Mr Maraka said, “There was no leakage at all because before we were appointed, the bank was already facilitating a relationship between the government and the Tšepong Consortium”.

He also dismissed as unfounded, claims that he disobeyed the minister by refusing to write to the DCEO over Dr Letsie.

“I wrote to the DCEO and the DCEO came to the Ministry of Health to carry out its investigations and I also wrote to the Director General asking her to explain some issues but she hasn’t explained herself up to now,” Mr Maraka said.

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