Minister, MP clash

MASERU — An opposition MP for Motimposo constituency, Pitso Maisa and Forestry Minister Ralechete ’Mokose are at each other’s throats over the alleged theft of M52 639 earmarked for the constituency’s poverty reduction project.

Maisa has accused ’Mokose of failing to deal with the alleged theft of funds by some of his representatives running the poverty reduction programme commonly called fato-fato.

Fato-fato

is a community-based government project that is meant to create temporary jobs for villagers in the districts by building roads and dams.

Villagers are engaged for only a month and earn about M900 during the same period.

The villagers’ contracts are terminated immediately after working for a month to give an opportunity to other villagers.

’Mokose’s forestry and lands reclamation ministry runs the poverty reduction programme.

Maisa told the Lesotho Times on Tuesday that the project secretary, Matseliso Ralebitso, and the project foreman, Sejela Selo, had allegedly admitted that they took the money and shared it with ’Manyakallo Thoabala.

Contacted last night, Ralebitso refused to comment over the phone demanding to meet the reporter in person.

Thoabala is said to be closely linked to ’Mokose and acts as his representative in the project.

Maisa said Selo had also allegedly admitted that he was only given M15 out of the M52 639 that had been taken from the project.

He said he then approached ’Mokose on June 7 to report the case of the missing funds but was told to come back on the 10th.

Maisa said he returned to ’Mokose’s office in the company of three representatives of local chiefs — ’Mamophethe Tsiu for Ha-Tsiu village, Seabata Mochesane for Tsenola and Mabea Mabea for Motimposo village — for the meeting.

Motimposo ward councillor, Thabang Ncheke, and Thoabala were also in attendance but the meeting was postponed once again because Ralebitso and Selo were not available.

Maisa’s delegation returned to ’Mokose’s office again on June 14 but Selo and Ralebitso were absent once again resulting in the meeting failing to take place.

The minister then told Maisa that he would no longer deal with the matter because it was now in the hands of the police.

The MP however accused ’Mokose of being reluctant to deal with the case because his representative in the project was a prime suspect.

“I asked him to replace his representative, the secretary and foreman, but he refused,” Maisa said.

“I was not saying he should replace them with my appointees. I just wanted him to remove those who were suspected of corruption and replace them with others he would pick.

“To my surprise ’Mokose said he would not remove them because he would be compelled to pay them while waiting for the courts to deal with their case,” Maisa said.

Maisa said he could not understand why ’Mokose refused to replace the officials accused of corruption.

“What is important is to remove corrupt people to prevent further corruption,” he said.

Maisa alleged that ’Mokose became angry when he insisted that he should replace officials who had been implicated in the theft of the funds.

He said he then convened a public meeting last Sunday to brief his constituency about the matter.

“I reported to the people all the things that ’Mokose said so that they could judge for themselves,” Maisa said.

’Mokose yesterday confirmed that Maisa had reported the case of the missing funds to him.

The minister however said contrary to Maisa’s claims it was his representative on the project who first reported the case of the missing funds.

’Mokose said he immediately reported the case to the police fraud squad unit.

“When Maisa became aware that I had reported the matter to the police he showed an interest in us solving this issue together and I thought it was genuine until I discovered that he had other motives,” ’Mokose said.

“He brought members of his party’s constituency’s committee masquerading as chiefs but I welcomed them thinking they were genuinely here to solve the problem.”

’Mokose who is a member of the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy party said he could not deal with the case because Ralebitso and Selo were not available to give their side of the story.

“They failed to bring the alleged confessors. How could I hear the matter when the people who reportedly had evidence were absent?” he said.

’Mokose said Maisa had failed to provide concrete evidence to implicate his representative in the alleged theft.

“I have reported the case to the police and they are the ones who will expertly deal with it.

“I told Maisa and his friends to tell the project secretary and the foreman to go to the police to give statements. I have completely withdrawn from that matter.”

The minister accused Maisa of conspiring with some members of the project management team to implicate Thoabala while exonerating other officials.

“I am aware that Maisa wants to shift focus from some people in the project management and direct it to my representative.

“If he is serious about finding a solution to this problem then he should bring the witnesses: the secretary and the foreman.”

Maisa said it was still not clear why Ralebitso and Selo failed to attend the meeting.

Selo’s whereabout are unknown to the Lesotho Times.

Efforts to contact Thoabala were not successful.

Meanwhile, a ward councilor for Motimposo which falls under the Maseru city council, Thabang Ncheke, confirmed that he was aware that there were some poverty reduction funds which had gone missing.

“I do not know where people who say the missing money is M52 000 are getting this figure from but I know that there is some money that cannot be accounted for,” Ncheke said.

“The case is now in the hands of the police.”

He said the council became aware of the missing funds after a list of workers submitted by the project secretary differed from their own.

“The secretary (Ralebitso) confessed that she removed some of the names and replaced them with other people who had not even worked for the project,” he said.

Police spokesperson Masupha Masupha said he was not aware of the case.

“I tried both the Maseru Central and the Mabote police stations but there was no such case reported there,” Masupha said.

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