MASERU — A witness in an internal probe into corruption in Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s office has alleged that the government secretary Tlohang Sekhamane (pictured) could be corrupt.
’Marapelang Raphuthing, a finance director in the Prime Minister’s office, made the allegations when she testified for principal secretary Kubutu Makhakhe who was facing 10 corruption-related charges.
Raphuthing has also been charged for corruption.
Three other officials — Thato Masiloane, Makhakhe’s deputy, as well as two procurement officers, ’Manthabeleng Shai and Lerato Moerane — have also been charged for corruption.
Like Raphuthing the three officials are yet to appear before a disciplinary hearing.
Makhakhe was found guilty of seven charges he was facing that emanated from his decision to approve the payment of invoices for companies linked to his wife.
The judgment, delivered last Wednesday, however said instead of being fired Makhakhe should be transferred to another post that does not deal with procurement.
To defend himself Makhakhe called Raphuthing to appear before a disciplinary panel that was appointed by Sekhamane who was also the complainant.
The panel was chaired by Monehela Posholi, the chief executive of the Lesotho Telecommunications Authority.
What Raphuthing said during the hearing is likely to open a can of worms.
According to recordings of the hearing, copies of which Lesotho Times has, Raphuthing alleges that Sekhakhame is also not so clean.
The recordings were signed by Posholi, Sekhamane, Makhakhe and three recorders, Mapeshoane Ntjatje, Rhoda Sello-Makhakhe and one M Mohalenyana.
Raphuthing refused to sign because she was not satisfied with one of the entries in the records.
She told the panel that she knew of Sekhamane’s procurement malpractices.
She said when she queried the suspicious transactions Sekhamane told her that they were at the orders of Prime Minister Mosisili.
Raphuthing, who was being cross-examined by Sekhamane, went as far as saying explicitly that Sekhamane was a suspect in corruption.
She made the allegations when Sekhamane asked her if she did “not remember any mis-procurement that happened in the Honourable Prime Minister’s office”.
Raphuthing said she recalled one company called Tšoeu Construction which was said to have done some renovation work at the State House before she was appointed director.
“I found that it was to be paid but I could not see how it got that job and what really was it that it was doing,” Raphuthing said.
“I reported this to my superiors and I was referred to the GS (Government Secretary) where I was told that the Honourable Prime Minister had instructed that that person be paid immediately and (asked) who I thought I was,” she said.
Raphuthing said the company was paid about M500 000.
She said the second procurement malpractice involved a car that was hired for the Prime Minister’s office which was paid for through Avis fleet management company.
“I only saw it moving around here with blue plate numbers (AU606) and I did not know what it was doing. I didn’t even know the owner,” she said.
“I then enquired how it was procured as it had not been budgeted for and I was told that the Prime Minister had so instructed.”
The third procurement malfeasance involved a back-up generator at Qhobosheaneng Complex where most government offices, including Mosisili’s, are housed.
“A lot of money, about M300 000, was used to repair it by a company called Tee-Tee and the correct procurement procedures were seemingly not followed,” Raphuthing said.
These allegations could not be independently verified.
Raphuthing said the problem is that procurement affairs at the office are always said to be at the Prime Minister’s orders.
“Apart from that, it is matters involving hotels where you are just ordered to do this and that,” she said.
According to the procedure in the department Mosisili does not deal with the payment of suppliers.
That is the role of Sekhamane and Makhakhe.
Also, Mosisili does not decide when and how much a person or a supplier should be paid.
He also does not deal directly with his hotel bookings.
Asked if corruption was rampant in the Prime Minister’s office, Raphuthing said: “I can’t say it’s rampant because it’s done by senior people hence [it] raises eyebrows.”
Sekhamane’s question whether it was in order that Raphuthing was testifying in a corruption case while she was herself a suspect invited her to explicitly say he too was a suspect.
“Yes it is in order since the same complainant (Sekhamane) is still a suspect,” Raphuthing said.
“It is the same thing because the one (Sekhamane) who has charged us we suspect is corrupt. So, we are in the same circle,” she said.
Sekhamane did not challenge Raphuthing’s allegations during the hearing.
He however said Raphuthing was bitter that Mosisili had ordered an investigation into the department.
“Having known that investigations were sanctioned by the Prime Minister she is so bitter that she says on record that the Prime Minister is corrupt,” Sekhamane said.
Sekhamane said Makhakhe could not have used Raphuthing as his witness because her evidence was not “credible”.
“I believe that the person of the level of the PS could have seen that such a witness is not a credible witness,” he said.
Makhakhe said he did not know anything about Raphuthing’s allegations but he had heard that his witness said some of the people who were corrupt were so senior to her that she could not bring them to book.