Rehabilitation centre fails to pay workers

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Pascalinah Kabi

A NON-GOVERNMENTAL organisation specialising in rehabilitating drug and alcohol addicts, Thaba Bosiu Centre of Blue Cross Lesotho, failed to pay the February salaries of its 28 employees after the Ministry of Health failed to release its M1, 5 million grant.

The government allocated the centre a M6 million subvention (grant) in the 2017/2018 financial year which was to be paid in quarterly tranches of M1, 5 million each.

Thaba-Bosiu Centre of Blue Cross Lesotho Director, Thabo Mokhutšoane, this week told the Lesotho Times that the centre had failed to pay its 28 employees due to delays by the health ministry in releasing their last quarter grant.

“We have a Memorandum of Understanding with the government to help us with funding to run this centre and the funds are released from the ministry of finance to the health ministry who then release them to us,” Mr Mokhutšoane said.

“But we have not received the funds for the January to March 2018 quarter and we are not sure of what is causing the delays since we have never experienced it before.”

However, sources at the centre this week told this publication that the health ministry’s Principal Secretary, Monaphathi Maraka, refused to release the funds, saying he would only do so after the ministry has audited the centre’s financials.

One source alleged that the centre’s financial woes started late last year when its accountant approached the ministry to facilitate the release of the fourth quarter funds.

“The ministry’s accounts department informed the centre’s accountant that the PS had ordered them to stop the transfer of the funds. The PS later demanded the centre’s audited financial statements saying there were some irregularities that had been brought to his attention.”

Another source alleged that the audited financials were handed over to Mr Maraka who then insisted on another audit this time by officials from his ministry on the grounds that the internal audit was not satisfactory.

This allegedly did not go down well with the centre’s officials who insisted that theirs was an autonomous organisation and their internal audit was enough.

Mr Mokhutšoane confirmed that Mr Maraka said he would send his ministry’s auditors to audit their books, adding that was “strange” given that the centre was an autonomous body.

“We maintained that the ministry’s auditors were external to us and there has been a lot of correspondence between this office and Mr Maraka,” Mr Mokhutšoane said.

He said he subsequently asked the Government Secretary, Moahloli Mphaka, to intervene in the matter.

“I spoke to the GS and he told me that the funds were released on the 19th of February but they have not yet reflected in our bank account.”

Yesterday, Mr Mphaka said “the only comment I have is that we have given them the money, what more do they want now?”

For his part, Mr Maraka initially asked for this reporter to send him questions via the WhatsApp platform. He then promised a meeting to discuss the issue but he was not available yesterday.

Another source said the financial challenges could force the centre to prematurely release its 30 patients before they received full treatment.

“We have 29 local patients and one Zambian who pay M650 each for three months treatment, accommodation and meals. But if the current situation persists we will have no option but to send them away,” the source said.

He said an occupational therapist had since resigned over the uncertainty surrounding the centre.

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