Pension looting spree unearthed

MASERU — Between 2010 and 2011 the government lost M81 million through illegal old age pension claims.

This is according to a special report tabled by parliament’s Public Accounts Committee on Friday.

The report shows that in 2010 there were 10 942 people who illegally received the government’s M300 monthly old age pension.

In 2011, the report says, the number of illegitimate beneficiaries of the pension scheme increased to 11 568.

The result of these fraudulent pension claims is an M81 036 000 loss to the government.

That money is enough to build just over 50 basic rural schools at a cost of M1.5 million each.

Only women aged above 65 and men above 70 are supposed to receive the pension but over the years younger people have falsified their ages or paid bribes to receive the pension.

Some people have continued to receive the pension after the rightful beneficiary has died.

The report revealed that while there is chicanery from opportunistic members of the public there are some officials who have manipulated the old age pension scheme to line their pockets.

And some have made millions of maloti by tinkering with the system.

For instance, the report quotes a recent finance ministry investigation which revealed that two officials in the pensions unit looted more than M5 million from the scheme.

One Mphonyane was dismissed after he was discovered to have looted M3 799 400. Mphonyane, who is now facing criminal charges, allegedly stole the money by under-recording bank withdrawals.

Mphonyane, the investigation revealed, withdrew M5 739 400 but only recorded M1 940 000.

There is also the case of one Rafono whom the investigation revealed had failed to remit M1 641 400.

The committee’s report says “she deliberately altered figures in the cash account from the receipt issued when giving to another party resulting in the new amount of M8 200”.

The alterations resulted in the wrong cash accounts balance, the report says.

The report further notes that Mphonyane and Rafono were able to “commit theft and fraud” due to lack of adequate supervision from their superiors.

“Furthermore, the excess cash withdrawal from the bank and failure to reconcile the dispatch list exacerbated the problem”.

Rafono is yet to face disciplinary action but the finance ministry has since submitted its findings to her superiors.

The committee also said that some officers had pocketed pensions that would not have been claimed.

When pensions are not claimed the officers simply sign in using different signatures to give the impression that a legitimate pensioner has claimed the money when they would have actually pocketed the money.

Two cashiers from Tebang Post Office allegedly signed for the payments of 1 248 deceased pensioners. That means every month the two officials stole M374 400 from the government.

One official stole M197 350 while another helped himself to M20 000.

An accountant from Leribe, the report says, withdrew M1.7 million more than he needed to pay pensioners.

In Butha-Buthe, another accountant withdrew M2.7 million more than was required.

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