Officials fail to pitch up for trial
A CASE in which a senior official in the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, Motheba Letsoela, and a prominent contractor are jointly charged with corruption, had to be postponed this week due to the absence of Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) prosecutors.
Ms Letsoela is accused of defrauding the state of M83 698 between 2008 and 2009, allegedly after the fictitious renovation of a government house in Maseru.
The 41-year-old Letsoela is charged alongside Qeme Building and Civil Contractors Director, Mahapela Thoahlane. The duo first appeared before the Maseru Magistrate’s Court on 14 August 2014 and the case was postponed to Tuesday this week.
However, Mr Hlabanyane had to move the case to 15 November 2014 once again after DCEO officials failed to turn-up in court.
Advocates Patrick Tšenoli and Monaheng Rasekoai, representing the accused in the case, told the court they made numerous telephone calls to a DCEO lawyer prosecuting the case who kept on terminating the calls.
The defence team further alleged they called another lawyer in the DCEO Prosecution Office, who also did not pick-up the phone.
When postponing the case, Mr Hlabanyane warned: “If they don’t appear next time, we will take it from there. The accused and their counsel are released and will appear on the next date of hearing.”
Contacted for comment yesterday, DCEO Spokesperson, ‘Matlhokomelo Senoko, said the lawyer’s absence was not deliberate as he was out of the country on business.
“He is out of the country on other work-related matters, so he did not deliberately miss the trial. He left the country on Sunday and is going to be out of the country for the entire week,” Ms Senoko said.
“His colleagues were also engaged in other cases and could not be available for that case. I think there has been a communication breakdown between our Office and the defense counsel.”
Meanwhile, according to the charge sheet, Ms Letsoela allegedly abused her office and facilitated the payment of M83 698 to Qeme Building and Civil Contractors under the pretext the company had renovated a government house in Florida in Maseru.
“On or between November 2008 and March 2009, the accused persons in their capacities aforesaid, made false representation to the government of Lesotho and to its prejudice, that Accused Two (the company) had renovated, repaired or maintained or completed any construction work at House No 528 in Florida, Maseru, and as a result thereto, M83 698 was due to Accused Two.
“Accused One (Ms Letsoela) certified, authorised and credited or made or caused to make payments to Accused Two before payment was due, and that was utilised solely for an anticipated saving.
“As a result thereof, payment or authorisation was made on the basis of Accused One in contravention of the Financial Regulations 1973 for the purposes of obtaining an undue advantage for herself or Accused 2 or 3 (company’s director) or for another person,” reads the charge sheet.
In a separate charge of corruption which Ms Letsoela faces alone, she is accused of abusing her powers as a public officer, to authorise undue payment to Qeme Building and Civil Contactors.