MASERU — The principal secretary of foreign affairs, Tebello Metsing, says it was the cabinet that recommended a senior defence ministry official for a diplomatic posting despite that he had a criminal case pending against him in court.
A parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report recently revealed that Makhabane Leluma, who worked in the defence ministry, had been appointed to a diplomatic post even though he was facing corruption charges related to air conditioner tender for Makoanyane Barracks.
The report said Metsing had pushed for Leluma’s appointment knowing that he had a case in the courts.
Leluma then left the defence ministry to take up his post as the third secretary at Lesotho’s embassy in South Africa, leaving his case in limbo.
At one time, the case had to be postponed because Leluma was not available.
The committee said Metsing had ignored a warning from the Principal Secretary for Defence and National Security Mahali Lebesa that Leluma should not be released from the defence ministry.
Lebesa had told Metsing that she was unable to vouch for Leluma’s good standing for a diplomatic posting, said the report.
But despite Lebesa’s reluctance, the report noted with dismay, Metsing had proceeded to appoint Leluma.
Metsing however told the Lesotho Times last week that it was not him but the cabinet that recommended Leluma for the diplomatic post.
He said the cabinet had initially recommended Leluma for a post in Libya but when a civil strife hit the country he was posted to South Africa instead.
He said he did not even know Leluma and when his recommendation came from the cabinet he did everything by the book.
Metsing said after the cabinet’s recommendation came he waited for a month until Lebesa wrote to him saying Leluma had been cleared to take up the post.
“I only allowed him to (go to) the embassy after the PS for Defence and National Security told me that he was cleared of the charges,” Metsing said. “I only got surprised when I read your newspaper that this man is still facing some criminal charges. I still have letters showing that he was cleared.
“If he has criminal cases to answer, we are ready to recall him,” he said.
But Mesting’s version of the story is in stark contrast to the one from the PAC report.
The report said Lebesa had written to Metsing informing him that Leluma was facing criminal charges.
“The Chief Accounting Officer for the Ministry of Defence and National Security (Lebesa) has written a savingram of 5th October 2011 to the Principal Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Relations conveying the Public Accounts
Committee dismay that Mr Leluma has been posted to embassies whilst involved in a criminal case,” said the report which the Lesotho Congress for Democracy-dominated parliament refused to endorse arguing that it had “weaknesses”.
The report said Lebesa had told Metsing that “I am unable to provide your good office with his concurrence and personal file”.
“In spite of this communication between the two principal secretaries, Mr Leluma was in fact posted to the embassies as third secretary leaving behind a criminal case which had to be postponed on 9th August 2011 because Mr Leluma was not
present,” said the report.
The report said there are two questions the case of Leluma begs.
“What was the interest of the Principal Secretary (Metsing) in forcing a posting to the embassy of an officer who had a criminal charge behind him?
“Secondly, how is it that he ignored the fact that the Principal Secretary for Defence and National Security had refused to grant concurrence for the promotion of Mr Leluma on the grounds of his criminal involvement?”
The PAC has recommended that Metsing should bring Leluma back to Lesotho to answer the charges.
“Foreign Service Regulations would not permit of the action taken by the ministry.”
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