BARELY a month after his appointment, Local Government and Chieftainship Minister Samuel Rapapa has dissolved the Land Administration Authority’ board accusing it of failing to adhere to good corporate governance practices.
He did not say what corporate governance practices had been violated.
The dissolution is with effect from 15 June 2020. However, the move has been criticised by some of the board members who said the minister should have first consulted and discussed whatever concerns he had with them. Some of the board members say they were in the process of auditing the LAA and should have been left to complete the processes of establishing whether or not there were any irregularities in the day to day running of the land authority.
Among other things, the LAA is in charge of land administration, land registration, mapping and surveying in the country.
The LAA board is chaired by the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftainship’s principal secretary and it also comprises of representatives of the same ministry as well as the ministries of Agriculture and Food Security; Forestry, Range and Land Conservation; Trade and Industry; the Association of Surveyors; the Bankers Association of Lesotho; the LAA Director; the business sector, notaries and conveyancers.
Former LAA board chairperson Khothatso Tšooana has been moved to the new Health Ministry in a reshuffle of principal secretaries by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro on Monday.
In his 12 June 2020 letter to the board members, Mr Rapapa states that “the Board failed to act with due diligence and failed to observe its fiduciary duties towards good governance of the Land Administration Authority”.
“The Board is mandated to promote and ensure that the Land Administration Authority complies strictly with the laws of Lesotho, especially laws governing the Land Administration Authority.
“The Board appears to have compromised the effective performance of the Land Administration Authority. You are therefore advised that your membership of the Land Administration board of directors is hereby terminated.”
However, some of the board members who preferred anonymity said the dissolution of the board came as a shock to them because the minister had not consulted them or raised any concerns about any irregularities.
“It is quite disheartening to see how the minister has decided to handle the whole issue. He did not even try to meet us so that he gets our input on how best to restructure the institution if he so decides. The least he could have done would have been to have us present our report to him.
“He has acted as he sees fit but he has left us with so many unanswered questions as to who said what to him because we are the only credible source of information about anything regarding the LAA.
“There are some issues that need immediate attention and this includes the reversal of the recruitment of some staffers who were un-procedurally hired while another 15 were promoted without any consideration of possible financial implications on the LAA,” a board member said.
Another board member said the minister had misguided himself by dissolving the board.
“He (Mr Rapapa) has misdirected himself in that some of the members that he has decided to dismiss are certain to bounce back into the board as they are nominated by their respective entities. He will then have to deal with the same faces he arbitrarily dismissed without giving them a hearing.
“We wonder what the rush in dissolving the board was all about when we had already engaged some independent consultants to audit the LAA seeing that there are some irregularities in the running of the institution.
“There are a lot of issues that don’t add up in the day to day running of LAA and as the board we had made some recommendations to rectify things,” the board member said.
Mr Rapapa yesterday said he did “what had to be done” by dissolving the board.
“It is true that I disbanded the board and the only reason is that the new government wants to start on clean slate. Some of the issues such as those of the LAA can become problematic, especially now that we are in a new coalition,” Mr Rapapa told the Lesotho Times. He however, would not say what the new coalition comprising of his All Basotho Convention (ABC) party and the Democratic Congress (DC) could find problematic about the LAA.