Suspended con­sul gen­eral de­mands an­swers

...as suspended con­sul gen­eral con­fronts for­eign af­fairs PS over ‘si­lence’

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Keiso Mohloboli

Le­sotho’s Dur­ban-based Con­sul Gen­eral, Ler­ato tšosane is de­mand­ing to know her fate from gov­ern­ment fol­low­ing her in­def­i­nite sus­pen­sion in Jan­uary this year for al­leged abuse of of­fice and em­bez­zling public funds.

Ac­cord­ing to a let­ter dated 14 April 2015, Ms tšosane is re­quest­ing For­eign Af­fairs Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary (PS) Te­bello Mets­ing for an up­date on the sus­pen­sion and the out­come of in­ves­ti­ga­tions the Di­rec­torate on Cor­rup­tion and Eco­nomic Of­fences (DCEO) said had launched in re­la­tion to the al­leged of­fences.

In the let­ter, a copy of which the Le­sotho Times has in pos­ses­sion, Ms tšosane gives a back­ground of her case, and how she only knew about her pending sus­pen­sion through the me­dia.

The de­ci­sion to sus­pend Ms Tšosane had re­sulted from an in­spec­tion car­ried out by the Au­di­tor Gen­eral, Lucy Liphafa, at the Dur­ban Con­sulate for the fi­nan­cial years 2009 to May 2014. In her re­port, Ms Liphafa ex­pressed con­cern at the many ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties she had un­cov­ered and asked the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties to take re­me­dial ac­tion.

Reads part of Ms Liphafa’s re­port: “I would like to draw your at­ten­tion to the fol­low­ing ma­jor weak­nesses noted dur­ing the course of the au­dit: Ir­reg­u­lar cash with­drawals from the con­sulate’s bank ac­count whereby a to­tal of R500 000 was with­drawn be­tween Novem­ber and De­cem­ber 2013. This amount ap­pears to have been de­posited into the Con­sul Gen­eral’s per­sonal ac­count from which some pay­ments were made.

“In the 2013/14 fi­nan­cial year, the Con­sul Gen­eral claimed out-of-pocket ex­penses amount­ing to R70 970. 99, while there was a lot of cash with­drawn. There was also unau­tho­rised change of ac­com­mo­da­tion by the Con­sul Gen­eral where the gov­ern­ment in­curred ex­pen­di­ture amount­ing to R300 800.00 for the oc­cu­pancy of the new house, while the for­mer prop­erty bro­ker has claimed R210 068.91 which, if not paid, legal ac­tion will be in­sti­tuted against the gov­ern­ment.”

Ms tšosane was also noted in the au­dit as hav­ing pur­chased al­co­holic drinks amount­ing to R9 200.00 us­ing public funds with­out prov­ing there was any need to have any func­tion war­rant­ing the ex­pen­di­ture.

Concludes Ms Liphafa’s damn­ing re­port: “There is a very se­ri­ous lax­ity in the man­age­ment of public funds at the Dur­ban Con­sulate, re­sult­ing in non-com­pli­ance with the laws and reg­u­la­tions and other gov­ern­ment ac­count­ing pro­ce­dures.”

It was af­ter this re­port that Ms tšosane was suspended on 7 Jan­uary 2015 “pending the out­come of the DCEO’S in­ves­ti­ga­tions”. how­ever, Ms tšosane says fail­ure to up­date her on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion had be­come cause for con­cern.

Ms Tšosane writes: “On the morn­ing of 4 Jan­uary 2015, I was alerted through Har­vest FM in Le­sotho that I had been suspended from duty, and three days later, the Deputy Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary (in the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs) de­liv­ered a let­ter to me per­son­ally in Dur­ban to con­firm what was al­ready known to me.

“In the let­ter, you stated that I was suspended from duty ‘with im­me­di­ate ef­fect pending fi­nal­i­sa­tion of in­ves­ti­ga­tions that are be­ing con­ducted by the Di­rec­torate on Cor­rup­tion and Eco­nomic Of­fences re­gard­ing al­leged mis­con­duct in the han­dling of gov­ern­ment fi­nances at the Le­sotho Con­sulate in Dur­ban’.

“In the let­ter, you clearly spec­i­fied that the sus­pen­sion was on full pay and spelled out the fol­low­ing con­di­tions: (a) that I should stay away from the of­fice and that (b), I should avoid com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the staff, which you re­ferred to as po­ten­tial wit­nesses. You fur­ther in­structed me to re­main at my duty sta­tion and co­op­er­ate with in­ves­ti­ga­tors and or of­fi­cials from the Min­istry ‘when­ever called upon’.

“three months have gone by and I have not heard from the in­ves­ti­ga­tors or of­fi­cials from the Min­istry. The word fi­nal­i­sa­tion of in­ves­ti­ga­tions gave me the im­pres­sion that the process was at an ad­vanced stage and although the let­ter did not spec­ify the du­ra­tion of my sus­pen­sion, I find it un­usual that no de­vel­op­ments have been com­mu­ni­cated to me con­cern­ing the mat­ter.

“Dur­ing the sus­pen­sion, a fol­low-up let­ter came that stripped me of sign­ing pow­ers on the of­fice fi­nances and the Con­sular At­taché was as­signed to re­place me. I wish to ad­vise the PS that since the sus­pen­sion, most of the bills that form part of my priv­i­leges were not paid (util­ity bills, school bus, gar­den and pool ser­vice, se­cu­rity, per diem on au­tho­rised trip, and flights on of­fi­cial du­ties car­ried out be­fore sus­pen­sion).

“For two months, I have footed the bills and I have not been re­im­bursed. Fur­ther­more, af­ter sev­eral warn­ings by traf­fic cops that my tyres were worn out, and de­spite re­peat­edly re­quest­ing the of­fice to re­place the tyres, I ex­pe­ri­enced a punc­ture on the high­way and I was forced to buy two tyres. Th­ese are ex­penses I can­not af­ford.

“Fur­therto, the Con­sular At­taché has con­tacted the ser­vice-provider to sus­pend my mo­bile con­tract, and this, af­ter she suspended me from ac­cess­ing fuel for the of­fi­cial car. Over and above all this, I have lost track of the ac­tual date for pay­ment of my FSA (Flex­i­ble Spend­ing Ac­count).

“Although your let­ter stated that I should seek author­ity from the Ps ‘and leave only af­ter ob­tain­ing a writ­ten ap­proval’, I got the im­pres­sion that over and above be­ing re­moved from be­ing the main sig­na­tory on the ac­count, I have also lost my per­sonal rights. This is be­cause I wrote a let­ter to you seek­ing author­ity to travel to Le­sotho to vote (on 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015), and de­spite fol­low-up calls, I re­ceived no re­sponse from you and as a re­sult I failed to vote.

“I would re­quest the Ps to up­date me on the said in­ves­ti­ga­tion and elu­ci­date my fate lest I re­main idle for too long and my fu­ture cut short.”

Mr Mets­ing on Tues­day con­firmed re­ceiv­ing Ms Tšosane’s let­ter and said he had since re­sponded but could not into the de­tails of the com­mu­niqué.

“Ms tšosane’s is­sue should be treated with con­fi­den­tial­ity be­cause it is about some­one’s em­ploy­ment and life. What I can only say is I told her in my re­sponse that the in­ves­ti­ga­tions are still in progress.”

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Mets­ing, the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs was not in charge of the in­ves­ti­ga­tions, hence he could not say how far they had gone.

“The in­ves­ti­ga­tions are not be­ing car­ried out here in the Min­istry but by the Dceo, which is why I am not in a po­si­tion to say how far they have gone. Hope­fully, as soon as they are done, she will be con­tacted,” said Mr Mets­ing.

Con­tacted for com­ment on Tues­day, Ms Tšosane re­fused to dis­cuss her sus­pen­sion with the Le­sotho Times.

“I won’t com­ment on the cor­re­spon­dence be­tween me and the PS; if you want verification or com­ment, go to him or rather get them from the streets not from me,” Ms Tšosane said be­fore ter­mi­nat­ing the call.

Con­sul Gen­eral of le­sotho to Dur­ban ler­ato Tšosane.

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