FORMER Lesotho National Development Authority (LNDC) chief executive officer CEO), Mohato Seleke, has been appointed as the new Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) managing director.
He replaces Leketekete Ketso who had been in charge albeit in an acting capacity.
Mr Seleke’s appointment is with effect from tomorrow. It marks an upturn in his fortunes as it comes barely two months after Trade and Industry Minister, Thabiso Molapo, refused to renew his contract at the LNDC. He had since filed a High Court application seeking the reversal of the minister’s decision.
It is not clear what effect his appointment to the LEC top job will have on his pending court application for reinstatement at the LNDC.
Efforts to obtain his comment were unsuccessful at the time of going to print as his mobile phone rang unanswered. He did not respond to messages sent to his phone.
However, LEC board chairperson, Lejone Mpotjoane, yesterday confirmed Mr Seleke’s appointment saying his mandate was to implement a turn-around strategy to transform the utility body into a “more respectable company”.
“We have concluded the process of recruiting the LEC managing director,” Mr Mpotjoane told the Lesotho Times.
“Ntate Mohato Seleke has been appointed as the new managing director and he is expected to report for work on Friday 22 January 2020. He has signed a five-year contract,” added Mr Mpotjoane.
He said it was public knowledge that the LEC had experienced its “fair share of problems” over the past few years and Mr Seleke was expected to oversee a positive change of fortunes over the next five years.
“Top of the list is for him to ensure that the LEC delivers services in a more efficient and effective manner because the majority of our clients have been moaning about poor service delivery. There are some areas where LEC employees are performing exceptionally well. For instance, our responsiveness in terms of purchasing of electricity is very good.
“But when it comes to issues of power outages, we know that the response is dissatisfactory due to a number of issues, including the technology that has not been improved over time. That needs to be addressed. There is also an issue of applications for new connections which must be responded to timeously because electricity is a necessity.
“Ntate Seleke will also need to ensure that LEC employees are happy to come to work and discharge their mandates efficiently. He will have to ensure they are well paid and attend training to improve their skills. We want employees who are happy to work at the LEC to enable us to successfully implement our new strategic plan,” Mr Mpotjoane said.
He said the image of the LEC had been tainted by reports of corruption in the recruitment of employees as well as the awarding of tenders by the power utility.
“We are therefore looking to strengthen our internal investigations and ethics unit as part of efforts to instill an ethical culture in the company.
“We must get to a point where confidential LEC information is not leaked to the media because we are dealing with professionals who should conduct business in a professional manner. The issue of LEC being the talk of the town for the wrong reasons must be a thing of the past. This is basically what Ntate Seleke is expected to achieve in the next five years,” Mr Mpotjoane said.
In the past three years, the LEC has been rocked by allegations of fraud, theft and corruption.
According to a December 2018 confidential report by South African consultants SNG Grant Thornton, the LCE was owed M110, 1 million by its various unnamed debtors. SNG’s findings have not been made public but the Lesotho Times has seen a copy of the confidential report which was leaked last year.
Apart from the debts, four companies belonging to some senior LEC managers were awarded tenders ranging from M53 000 to M181 000. This is against corporate governance practices which forbid employees from bidding for tenders in their own organisations.
The SNG report is titled “Executive Summary: Governance Review, Turnaround Action and Investigations on behalf of Lesotho Electricity Company: Strictly Confidential”.
It follows a similar report issued in 2017 by the LEC’s internal audit department (IAD) which detailed the rot that had taken root at the parastatal. The report called upon the then new LEC board to send a strong message to the parastatal’s management that any forms of malfeasance would no longer be tolerated at the state-owned utility tasked with the generation and distribution of power in Lesotho.
Meanwhile, Mr Seleke’s appointment to the LEC post comes barely a month after High Court Judge, Molefi Makara, ordered the processes of appointing his successor at the LNDC to be stopped until his application to have his job back had been finalised.
Mr Seleke on 2 December 2020 filed an urgent High Court application for an order compelling Minister Molapo to renew his contract.
In his court papers, Mr Seleke alleges that Dr Molapo disregarded the LNDC board’s decision to recommend the renewal of his contract by a further three years when it met on 7 September 2020.
He argues that Dr Molapo’s refusal to renew his contract was irrational, arbitrary and done in bad faith.
Dr Molapo; Trade and Industry principal secretary Maile Masoebe; Attorney General Haae Phoofolo; the LNDC board and the LNDC are first to fifth respondents respectively in the application.
Mr Seleke was appointed LNDC CEO on 1 December 2017 by then Trade and Industry Minister, Tefo Mapesela. His contract expired on 30 November 2020 and it was not renewed.
He argued that clause 2 of his contract of employment specifically provides for an option of renewal. He said the LNDC board assessed and evaluated his performance and found it to have been more than satisfactory. He thus expected his contract to be renewed.
He said he formally submitted his application for renewal to the LNDC board on 18 August 2020
“The (LNDC) board, based on their assessment and evaluation of my performance over the past three years, did consider my request in its meeting of 7 September 2020 and reached a resolution that it be recommended to the Minister (Molapo) that my contract be renewed for a further period of three years,” Mr Seleke states in his court papers.
“Due to the apparent conflict of interest if I sat in the meetings I was always excused from the board’s deliberations when the issue of the renewal of my contract was considered. However, and based on the purported response by the Minister, it is beyond doubt that the Board did advise the Minister to renew my contract of employment based on my more than satisfactory performance and meeting of set targets over my tenure.”
The term of the board which purportedly renewed Mr Seleke’s contract ended in September 2020. The current board was appointed a month later in October, five months after the collapse of the former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s administration.
The Thabane government collapsed after the former premier’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) party agreed to form a new coalition with the Democratic Congress (DC).
As per the ABC, DC coalition agreement, each party has the responsibility of filling key positions in any of the institutions falling under the ministries it controls. The LNDC falls under the trade ministry which is controlled by the DC. Mr Seleke is not a DC member but ABC member.
He has now been appointed to head the LEC, an institution which is controlled by the ABC as per the terms of the coalition agreement.
Energy and Meteorology Minister, Mohapi Mohapinyane, is the ABC’s legislator for the Rothe constituency.
Last August, the national executive committees (NECs) of the ABC and DC are said to have rejected a proposal by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro to remove the LNDC from the ambit of the Ministry of Trade and Industry and place it under the control of the premier’s own office.
The move was interpreted as an attempt to make it easier for the premier to retain Mr Seleke as the LNDC boss. However, Dr Majoro’s office denied the allegations.