Top job for crime suspect. Diplomatic posting questioned

MASERU — A senior official in the defence ministry who is facing charges of corruption was rewarded with a diplomatic post, parliament’s Public Accounts Committee has found. According to a PAC report released last week Makhabane Leluma, who was criminally involved in the tendering of air-conditioners for Makoanyane Barracks, was last year posted to one of Lesotho’s embassies as a third secretary. The report said Leluma’s criminal case in the magistrate’s court had to be postponed on August 9 this year because he was unavailable. The PAC, chaired by the Marematlou Freedom Party leader Moeketse Malebo, says the Principal Secretary for Defence and National Security, Mahali Lebesa, said she warned her counterpart in the foreign affairs, Tebello Metsing that Leluma could not be released to go to the embassies “but I was not listened to”. Lebesa reportedly wrote to Metsing on October 5 2011 conveying the PAC’s dismay that Leluma had been posted to a foreign embassy despite the case. PAC also says Metsing had earlier requested concurrence for special assignment of Leluma to hold the position of third secretary but Lebesa turned down the request saying: “I am unable to provide your good office with his concurrence and personal file.” “In spite of this communication between the two principal secretaries, Mr Leluma was in fact posted to the embassies as third secretary leaving behind a criminal case which had to be postponed on 9th August 2011 because he was not present,” says the PAC report. The PAC says there are two questions that this case raised. “What was the interest of the principal secretary in forcing a posting to the embassy of an officer who had a criminal charge behind him?” the MPs asked. “Secondly, how is it that he ignored the fact that the principal secretary for defence and national security had refused to grant concurrence for the promotion of Mr Leluma on the grounds of his criminal involvement?” The PAC has since recommended that Metsing should bring Leluma back to Lesotho to answer his charges. Efforts to contact Metsing were not successful as his office said he was not available yesterday.
The Lesotho Times yesterday could not establish to which embassy Leluma had been posted or more details about his case. The PAC report was on Tuesday withdrawn after concerns that the committee had not thoroughly consulted before issuing it.

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