MASERU — The state funeral of the late assistant sports minister Lekhetho Phakisi gobbled more than M2.5 million but more than half of that amount cannot be accounted for.
The Lesotho Times can reveal that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) this week launched a probe into what sources say could have been an elaborate scam to use the funeral in July 2007 to swindle the government.
The targets of the investigation are officials of the Celebrations Committee which organised the funeral.
The Celebrations Committee falls under the Ministry of Home Affairs which is run by Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehohla.
Officials in Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s office which provided the funds to the Celebrations Committee to organise the funeral are also under investigation.
PAC chairman Moeketse Malebo refused to comment yesterday but the Lesotho Times is reliably informed that his committee grilled some of the members of the Celebrations Committee this week.
The investigation follows revelations that over M1.4 million of the M2 563 528.33 used for the funeral cannot be accounted for.
According to a report from the Government of Lesotho Financial Information Service (GOLFIS), the financial system used by the government until 2010, shows that the Celebrations Committee has only been able to account for M1 122 000.
An MP who is a member of the PAC told this paper that they have already started compiling a report and “it doesn’t look good at all”.
“This is a very serious matter,” the MP said.
“A report is being prepared right now and very soon the culprits will be nailed.”
The PAC also suspects that the M1 122 000 that has been accounted for is based on services and goods whose prices were highly inflated to benefit connected individuals and companies.
Documents obtained by this paper show that catering for the funeral which was held in Mokhotlong gobbled a massive M430 000. About M24 000 was used on cell phones.
Accommodation took about M270 000.
The bills were for hotels in Maseru, Butha Buthe, Thaba-Tseka, Qacha’s Nek, Katse, Semonkong and Mokhotlong.
The PAC wants to understand why the government ended up paying bills for hotels in Maseru, Thaba-Tseka, Qacha’s Nek, Katse and Semonkong for a funeral held in Mokhotlong Funeral services that included a coffin took another M220 000 from government coffers.
The document shows that about M114 000 was spent on groceries, all of which were surprisingly bought in Maseru.
Equally surprising is the fact that some of the groceries were bought from individuals when the law states that the government only gets supplies from registered companies that have valid tax clearance certificates.
The document also reveals that more than M70 000 was used on items that were not specified.
All in all 80 companies and individuals supplied goods and services during the funeral.
Twelve individuals were paid about M80 000 for providing goods and services during the funeral.
The state was even made to pay M3 500 for Mokorotlo hats at the funeral, according to the document.
There were meals at places like Regal Restaurant, an eatery in Maseru.
At hotels huge amounts of monies were used on food and “refreshments”.
The PAC, said another source, is baffled at the level of extravagance and wants to know specifically how many people stayed in hotels during the funeral.
The other question is whether those people were entitled to stay in hotels at the government’s expense.
“We want to know who slept in these hotels and why did they make the government pay for it,” said another PAC member who refused to be named because the committee has not yet completed its investigations.
“Why, for instance, was the government paying for dinners at places like Regal Restaurant? Why was the government made to pay hotel bills in places like Semonkong for a funeral that was held in Mokhotlong?”
“Some people might be jailed for this,” he said.
Phakisi died of heart failure on July 1, 2007 while in Monaco, a sovereign city state near France. He was 35.
He died barely four months after he was appointed a senator and deputy minister of sports.
Phakisi, a firebrand Lesotho Congress for Democracy youth league president, was buried in Mokhotlong on July 13, 2007.
Home Affairs Principal Secretary, Retšelisitsoe Khetsi, who is also the Celebrations Committee’s principal accounting officer, told the Lesotho Times last night that he was not aware that the committee he chaired was under probe.
Khetsi, who was at home on sick leave, said the PAC should have called him first because he is the one responsible for the committee’s activities and its budgets are drawn by his office.
“I am unaware of the probe and it is amazing that I haven’t been summoned before the Public Accounts Committee,” Khetsi said.
“I hope to hear about that when I go back to work on Monday when my sick leave ends,” he said.