…accused of bringing Prime Minister’s office into disrepute
VETERAN politician Lehlohonolo Tšehlana has instructed his lawyers to sue the Prime Minister’s Office following his suspension last week.
The former Lesotho Congress for Democracy and All Basotho Convention Member of Parliament was suspended from the premier’s office where he works in the Poverty Reduction Programme (PREP).
Mr Tšehlana was first employed as Political Advisor to then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane before his position was changed to PREP Officer.
But according to his letter of suspension dated 11 May 2015, and endorsed by the PREP Director, Topollo Lephatšoe, the former Senkatana Political Party leader would be on suspension with full pay “for a period not exceeding three months commencing 13May 2015”.
Among other alleged transgressions, Mr Tšehlana is being accused of bringing the office of the Prime Minister into disrepute.
Reads part of the suspension letter: “Your suspension from office is constituted while a disciplinary inquiry is being undertaken against you for bringing the office of the Prime Minister into disrepute, thereby contravening provisions of the Codes of Good Practice 2005, read together with Section 1(v) of the Public Service Act 2005 in that:
In or about May 2015, you used intimidating words against the Principal Secretary – Cabinet Administration, by sending intimidating cellular phone messages to him, thereby contravening Codes of Good Practice 2005 (i), which state that a Public Officer shall refrain from the use of insulting or intimidating words to the authority…or from showing disrespect to any of them. You also contravened the said code by intimidating your supervisor when you said that you are a former Member of Parliament and thus cannot be under su- pervision of the Director of Poverty Reduction Programme.”
The letter continues: “In or about May 2015, you failed to show courtesy and decency in your communication to the Director of PREP about the Principal Secretary – Cabinet Administration by saying ‘u tlilo tlotlolla PS ka ho u hanela ka koloi’ thereby contravening Codes of Good Practice 2005 (k), which state that a Public Officer shall ‘show courtesy and decency in his or her communication about any person or matter that is under consideration or forms the subject of comment or response.’
“In or about May 2015, you maliciously and destructively criticised the work of the Principal Secretary – Cabinet Administration at the Prime Minister’s Office’s premises by holding a press conference and saying that PS ‘ o u sitisa ho sebetsa’, thereby contravening Codes of Good Practice 2005 (k) where it states that a Public Officer shall not ‘maliciously or destructively criticise the work or conduct of another Public Officer.”
Mr Tšehlana is also accused of using official premises and time for personal and private purposes when he held the press conference “thereby contravening Codes of Good Practice 2005 (d) that state that a Public Officer shall not use official property, premises and time for personal and private purposes unless authorised to do so.”
The press conference, the letter added, was “personal and private because the activity was not assigned by your supervisor or a proper authority to your office”. The note adds: “On the same day, you failed to behave in a manner that enhances the reputation of the Public Service by saying the PS is sabotaging the current government by refusing you access to a government vehicle, thereby contravening provisions of Codes of Good Practice 2005 (n) that state that a public officer shall ‘when on official duty, dress and behave in a manner that enhances the reputation of the Public Service.”
Mr Tšehlana is also accused of fraud in the suspension letter.
“Between March 2015 and April 2015, you used another officer’s transport card (tag) fraudulently, thereby contravening Codes of Good Practice 2005 (n), commit a criminal offence involving dishonesty, misappropriation of public funds or cause damage to public property or bring the office of the Prime Minister into disrepute.”
However, Mr Tšehlana On Tuesday told the Lesotho Times that he was surprised by the contents of the letter.
“I am accused of several allegations but what has struck me the most is where it is alleged that I have committed fraud. That, to me, is defamation of character. The office will have to pronounce itself before the courts of law as to how and when I was ever charged with fraud. This is serious defamation of my character and I am taking them to court over it.”
He further told the Lesotho Times that he was surprised to be charged with contravening provisions of the Public Service Act 2005, “when in fact I was employed under terms of the Labour Code Act. I am not on the public service roll.”
Meanwhile, a lawyer at LMM Masupha Chambers yesterday confirmed to the Lesotho Times that they had received instructions from Mr Tšehlana to file a defamation case against the premier’s office.
There was no immediate comment from Mr Lephatšoe on Mr Tšehlana’s suspension.