Tšosane denies M3 million embezzlement claims

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Ntsebeng Motsoeli

LESOTHO’S former Consul General in Durban, Lerato Tšosane, has denied embezzling M2, 9 million from the government in the 2013/14 financial year through illegal funds transfers to her personal account.

Ms Tšosane recently told the Parliament Accounts Committee (PAC) that she only deposited government money into her personal account for business convenience as the Durban Consulate did not have a secretary who would have managed the office finances.

She said that she therefore deposited the government’s fund into her personal account for the “convenience” of financing office operations.

Earlier this month PAC, led by its chairperson Selibe Mochoboroane, questioned top officials in the ministry of Foreign Affairs on account of mismanagement of public funds revealed in the Auditor General (AG), Lucy Liphafa’s report of 2014.

In the auditor’s report, Ms Tšosane, her co-worker Consul Attaché, ‘Maphamotse Lepheeana and other employees in the Lesotho Johannesburg Consulate were accused of mismanaging public funds in the form of illegal money transfers, travelling allowances, out-of-pocket claims, handling fees, unaccounted purchasing of furniture and for partying.

The report also accused the former Consul General of lack of cooperation when the AG’s team went to the Durban Consulate for the audit.

“It is true that money was deposited into my account so that I could have access. Durban (Consulate) did not have a First Secretary to handle the office’s finances. In my first report I even requested for a First Secretary because I did not have the background on the management of funds,” Tšosane said.

“We used to sign (for bank transactions) with the First Secretary in the Pretoria Consulate but we were later advised to stop.

“We then had to get signatures from Maseru and when that seemed to be a problem I was given an approval to sign with the Consul Attaché. That was also a problem because she was regularly out of office and would travel to Maseru due to ill health. The demands of the office would not allow me to travel to Maseru (to access signature to money transfers).”

She said she was unaware that it was illegal to deposit government funds money into her personal account.

The auditor’s report said that Ms Tšosane has failed to account for M75 000 that was used to purchase furniture from an unidentified shop in Mafeteng. According to the report, there was no proof that such furniture was purchased and there were no border gate clearance papers to show that it was transported from Lesotho to South Africa.

The auditors said they could not even establish the existence on the furniture because Ms Tšosane was not cooperative during the audit and would not let the auditors into her residence. Also, the shop’s phone numbers which she provided did not go through.  Ms Lepheeana also claimed not to the existence of the said furniture.

However, Ms Tšosane said the payment for the furniture was authentic and that there was an invoice as prove it. She said that she purchased the furniture from Lesotho instead of Durban because it was “exclusive”. She added that she was not able to let the auditors into her house because she had to attend to Queen ‘Masenate Mohato Seeiso who was in Pietermaritzburg at the time.

“I dispute the allegation that I was not cooperative with the auditors. I had received a letter that Her Majesty would be visiting Durban. I had to serve His Majesty’s office so I called the auditors in Maseru to request that the audit be postponed so that they could have my whole attention. The response was rather negative. I was torn in between the audit and serving Her Majesty. They did not have access to my house because I was serving Her Majesty.”

She also denied allegations that she spent M10 000 for a party where she allegedly entertained 27 guests when the office had only seven staff members. She said the event was work related as she used it to network with Consul Generals and staff from other countries.

Mr Mochoboroane earlier this month labelled the expenditure as “appalling”.

However, Ms Tšosane defended the party as a normal work event that was meant for her to network with Consul Generals and their senior staff from other countries.

 

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