THE Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) yesterday suspended five of its senior management officers for six weeks to facilitate investigations into allegations of “financial and governance impropriety” that were raised by the LRA Staff Union (LERASU).
The five senior management officers are Chief Financial Officer Mangangole Tsikinyane, Chief Planning and Modernisation Officer Idia Penane, Chief Legal and Policy Officer and Acting Board Secretary Seth Macheli, Commissioner of Enforcement Realeboha Mathaba and Head of Litigation, Moutloatsi Lichaba.
An LRA statement issued last night said the suspensions, effective from 7 March 2018, followed representations that the LRA board received, from LERASU, soon after the board’s appointment by Finance Minister, Moeketsi Majoro in November 2017.
“By order of the chairman of the board, Mr Robert Likhang, today, 7 March 2018, the Board of the LRA decided to suspend, for a six-week period, five members of senior management,” part of the statement reads.
“The suspensions follow allegations of financial and governance impropriety made to the previous board by the LERASU in March 2017.
“Following the presentation, the board took a decision that, in view of the seriousness of the allegations against senior managers, a forensic audit exercise has to be undertaken.
“To that end, a forensic audit firm was appointed by the board. To facilitate the audit, the board then resolved to suspend for the six-week duration of the audit, the five officers.”
Meanwhile, Mr Setsoto Ranthocha has been appointed as the acting chief legal and policy officer and board secretary. Ms Kabanyane Tladi has been appointed acting chief financial officer and Mr Rakokoana Makoa is the new acting chief planning and modernisation officer.
Letsipa Mofilikoane and Mr Mahlomola Manyokole have also been appointed as acting head of litigation and commissioner responsible for enforcement respectively.
Efforts to obtain comment from Mr Likhang were unsuccessful at the time of going to print as his mobile phone was unreachable.
LRA Commissioner General, Thabo Khasipe, confirmed that the five had been suspended but refused to give details saying, “I wouldn’t want to comment further as this is my boss’ statement and the board is best suited to discuss this”.
Mr Khasipe was also suspended in February 2017 to allow investigations into an allegations that he “contravened his contractual obligations” by failing to pay taxes.
He was however reinstated to his position in December 2017. Last month, Mr Khasipe won a major court case after the constitutional court ruled that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) did not have the powers to charge him for violating tax laws.
At the time of Mr Khasipe’s suspension, there were allegations that Advocate Mathaba had been behind the tax evasion charges raised against the former after the latter was overlooked for the post of Commissioner General. Mr Mathaba furiously rejected the allegations.
Advocate Mathaba had been acting commissioner-general for six months while the search went on for a candidate to fill the position on permanent basis after former LRA boss Thabo Letjama’s resignation in 2016.
Adv Mathaba said he had just lost his father and was therefore unable to comment on the matter when contacted last night.
“I lost my father on Monday and I am preparing for his send-off. That means I haven’t been able to apply my mind on this issue and therefore I would ask you to take it up with the LRA,” Adv Mathaba said.
For his part, Dr Macheli said he needed to get authorisation from his employer to discuss his suspension with this publication.
“I am not at liberty to discuss this matter and as an employee I believe I will have to get a permission from my employer to discuss this matter. Right now I believe these issues (suspension) are being dealt with,” Dr Macheli said.
Efforts to solicit a comment from Mr Tsikinyane and Ms Penane were unsuccessful as their mobile phones went unanswered.