Health PS sus­pended

. . . as govt probes Health PS over al­leged abuse of of­fice

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Keiso Mohloboli

HEALTH Min­istry Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary (PS) Lefu Manyokole (pic­tured) has been sus­pended as govern­ment probes his pro­fes­sional con­duct amid al­le­ga­tions of abuse of of­fice.

Mr Manyokole was handed his sus­pen­sion let­ter on Tues­day this week signed by Govern­ment Sec­re­tary Moahloli Mphaka.

The sus­pen­sion is on full pay and ben­e­fits and fol­lows a seven-day ul­ti­ma­tum the PS was given by then Act­ing Govern­ment Sec­re­tary Motha­bathe Hlalele on 12 May 2015, in which he was asked to “show cause” why he should not be sent home while cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions against him were be­ing probed.

In the let­ter, Mr Hlalele ac­cused Mr Manyokole of ma­nip­u­lat­ing ten­der pro­cesses when govern­ment was look­ing for com­pa­nies to pro­vide cater­ing ser­vices to hos­pi­tals in 2013.

Some of the com­pa­nies which lost the ten­der sub­se­quently took Mr Manyokole to court, ac­cus­ing him of in­ter­fer­ing with the se­lec­tion process to their prej­u­dice.

“The aver­ments on the role you are sup­posed to have played in that par­tic­u­lar ten­der process are dam­ag­ing.

“You are vir­tu­ally ac­cused of cor­rup­tion and/or abuse of power, and many other un­savoury things were said about your con­duct in that mat­ter,” reads Mr Hlalele’s let­ter.

“It was said (in the court pa­pers) that you had au­tho­rised pay­ments to un­de­serv­ing sup­pli­ers (cater­ers); you in­ter­fered with the ten­der process us­ing the weight of your of­fice (sic) to have new sup­pli­ers en­gaged in the pres­ence of and over al­ready on-job sup­pli­ers (sic), thus re­sult­ing in a num­ber of ex­is­tence (sic) of two sup­pli­ers for one and the same ser­vice.

“In some in­stances, those de­serv­ing pay­ment were sim­ply side-lined and re­fused the same in favour of un­de­serv­ing ones. More dis­turb­ing is the al­le­ga­tion (apart from aver­ments made in court pa­pers) that in one in­stance, you had caused to be paid more than one mil­lion mal­oti of tax­pay­ers’ money to a caterer who had barely served for 10 days.”

The Act­ing GS also ac­cused Mr Manyokole of “mas­querad­ing” as Health PS in early 2013 when he had not been of­fi­cially ap­pointed to the po­si­tion.

“The sus­pi­cion is that it is at this par­tic­u­lar time that you had lent your sig­na­ture to some food-cater­ing agree­ments, pur­port­edly act­ing on be­half of the Min­istry. Should this be es­tab­lished as a fact, it hinges on the fraud­u­lent,” charged Mr Hlalele.

He also ac­cused Mr Manyokole of com­mit­ting the govern­ment to in­crease salaries of strik­ing Queen ‘Mamo­hato Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal work­ers with­out cabi­net au­thor­ity.

“If this be es­tab­lished as a fact, it was ir­re­spon­si­ble. But as I say, there is need to in­ves­ti­gate and es­tab­lish the ve­rac­ity, not only of this par­tic­u­lar al­le­ga­tion but of the oth­ers as well,” wrote Mr Hlalele.

Mr Hlalele also listed the dam­age of Mr Manyokole’s of­fi­cial ve­hi­cle at Marabeng in 2013 “un­der cir­cum­stances best known to you” as be­ing among the prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary’s al­leged wrong­do­ings.

Mr Manyokole’sole’s ve­hi­cle was de­stroyed in a fire and the PS at­trib­uted the in­ci­dent cident to un­known ar­son­ists.

The Act­ing Govern­ment Sec­re­tary then in­vited vited Mr Manyokole, who still has two years to serve on his con­tract,ntract, to jus­tify why he should not be sus­pended while his al­leged ed crimes are be­ing probed.

How­ever, in re­sponse, Mr Manyokole de­nied all the al­le­ga­tions lev­elled against him and in a let­ter dated 13 May 2015, took Mr Hlalele to task over the ac­cu­sa­tions and ul­ti­ma­tum.

“I am puz­zled d by the fact that all the cases re­ferred to are still pend­ing be­fore the courts of law which are yet to pro­nounceounce upon them. Yet t you are now stat­ing your in­ten­tion to sus­pend­pend me on the ba­si­sis of is­sues that are e be­ing con­tested in court and over which judge­ment is pend­ing.

“Are you noww sus­pend­ing the ju­ris­di­cris­dic­tion of the court­sts and as­sum­ing their role in this mat­ter? If that is the case, as it seems to be here, thenn that is il­le­gal and un­con­stin­con­sti­tu­tional. Yes, aver­ments ver­ments and al­le­ga­tions were made against me by los­ing bid­ders in the ten­der process.ocess.

They pe­ti­tioned d th the courtst and I in­deed re­sponded, in­clud­ing tak­ing the stand be­fore the High Court. But you seem to have se­lec­tively picked upon al­le­ga­tions raised against me by the dis­grun­tled lit­i­gants and ig­nored my own re­sponses as de­tailed in court pro­cesses.

“That is grossly un­fair. In any event, I don’t ex­pect ag­grieved peo­ple who lost in ten­der pro­cesses to have given me a pat on the back. They would nat­u­rally tar­get me with all kinds of spu­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions to try to vin­di­cate their in­ter­ests. That does not make these al­le­ga­tions cor­rect. I thus ve­he­mently and un­equiv­o­cally deny all the al­le­ga­tions raised as I did in the court process.

“How­ever, I main­tain that it is wrong for you to jump the prover­bial gun and seek to tar­get me over is­sues that are be­ing con­tested in courts of law and over which we await judge­ment,” Mr Manyokole wrote.

The PS also de­nied ever mas­querad­ing as a prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary, or uni­lat­er­ally agree­ing to in­crease Queen ‘Mamo­hato Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal work­ers’ salaries.

“I deny ever hav­ing im­per­son­ated or mas­quer­aded as the Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary of the Min­istry of Health. In­deed, you fail to sub­stan­ti­ate where, why and how I could have mas­quer­aded as such.

“I was ap­pointed PS of the Min­istry of Health by the of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter in Jan­uary 2013 and di­rected to promptly move into that of­fice as it was va­cant.

“…I did not is­sue a peremp­tory di­rec­tive that the govern­ment will pay the de­manded wage ad­just­ments. I com­mu­ni­cated with the strik­ers that the govern­ment would con­sider their de­mands and per­suaded them to re­sume work. This was a re­spons re­spon­si­ble thing to do as hos­pi­tals and clin­ics are es­sen­tial ser­vices”.

Re­gard­ing h his burnt ve­hi­cle, Mr Manyokole acc ac­cused the Act­ing GS of “em­bark­ing on a fish­ing ex­pe­di­tion”.

“It is deeply u un­for­tu­nate that you again em­bark on a fish­ing ex­pe­di­tion here with­outwith defin­ing a clear case of mis­cond mis­con­duct over which I can an­swer.

“You make a blan­ket, ma­li­cious ac­cu­sa­tion thattha I have em­barked on a mis­lead­ing­misle cam­paign as to whatwha ex­actly hap­pened with­outwitho giv­ing any de­tail about how I have done this.

“You“Y seem to have al­readyread made a con­clu­sion and made up your mind overove the car is­sue with­outou stat­ing what I have donedo wrong.

“I re­peat that my c car was at­tacked and d dam­aged by per­sons un­known, who may as well have been tar­get­ing my life. I find it dis­turb­ing that your good of­fice seems to be con­cerned with the ve­hi­cle and not my life.

“I re­ported this mat­ter to the po­lice for in­ves­ti­ga­tions and I still await their report. I deny ever hid­ing any in­for­ma­tion. I again want to ask you for an elab­o­ra­tion of in­for­ma­tion you ac­cuse me of hid­ing so that I can re­spond ad­e­quately.”

Mr Manyokole also said in the let­ter that it was against the rules of nat­u­ral jus­tice and fair­ness “to seek to oust me from of­fice on the ba­sis of un­sub­stan­ti­ated al­le­ga­tions and sus­pi­cions”.

He adds: “I do not see how my con­tin­ued stay in of­fice would hin­der any in­ves­ti­ga­tions con­ducted against me es­pe­cially when there is noth­ing in your let­ter that sug­gests that I may tam­per with any ev­i­dence by way of doc­u­ments or in­tim­i­dat­ing wit­nesses. In­deed, you haven’t listed a sin­gle mat­ter that war­rants my sus­pen­sion to al­low for any unim­peded in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

“I there­fore do not agree with the sus­pen­sion or ter­mi­na­tion of my em­ploy­ment on the ba­sis of the un­founded ‘ sus­pi­cions’ al­luded to which are in­deed ma­li­cious and un­ac­cept­able.

“In­deed, the fact that you now seek to in­ter­vene in mat­ters be­fore the courts smacks of a des­per­ate agenda to get me fired at all costs for rea­sons I can­not fathom.”

How­ever, de­spite Mr Manyokole’s spir­ited de­fence, govern­ment has de­cided to sus­pend him in­def­i­nitely.

Reads Mr Mphaka’s let­ter dated 12 June, but only de­liv­ered to the PS this week: “I ac­knowl­edge re­ceipt of your let­ter dated 13 May 2015, and would wish to com­ment thereon as fol­lows.

“Now, let us deal with each of the cases in ques­tion, which all had im­pugned the va­lid­ity of the ten­der process in the Min­istry of Health, on the ba­sis of wide­spread ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties by, par­tic­u­larly, your­self.

“CIV/APN/135/13 — Rhythm and Blues Cater­ers vs Min­istry of Health (Mokhot­long Hos­pi­tal). The court or­dered that the ten­der process was to be re­viewed by an in­de­pen­dent body other than the Min­istry of Health, and rec­om­men­da­tions made as to the way for­ward.

“CCA/0021/2014 — Po­las for All t/a Just in Time vs Min­istry of Health & Oth­ers (Berea Hos­pi­tal). The same or­der as above was made; that is, re­view of the ten­der process by an in­de­pen­dent body other than the Min­istry of Health.

“CCA/441/2013 — Gill’s In­te­grated Cater­ing Ser­vice t/a Lindy’s vs Min­istry of Health (Butha-buthe Hos­pi­tal). The same or­der as in the afore­go­ing was made.

“CIV/ APN/140/2013 — Motšo Mak t/a Motšo vs Min­istry of Health & oth­ers (Mo­hale’s Hoek hos­pi­tal). The same or­der was made.

“CCA/47/2013 — Melt­ing Pot vs Min­istry of Health & oth­ers (Maseru Na­tional Health Train­ing Cen­tre, NHTC). The same or­der as in the afore­go­ing was made.

“It is true that you de­nied any wrong­do­ing but the fact that in one of the cases, even suc­cess­ful bid­ders did not find it nec­es­sary to op­pose the chal­lenge against the process, and, fur­ther, that the court made the kind of or­der it did, as shown in all the afore­go­ing, tells a story that pos­si­bly there was some­thing not right with the way the ten­der process had been orig­i­nally con­ducted.

“And that is ex­actly what is in­tended to go deeper into by way of in­ves­ti­ga­tions to es­tab­lish the true po­si­tion in the mat­ter.

“Thus your as­ser­tion that the courts are yet to de­cide on the ap­pli­ca­tions is misinformed. They have de­cided that there be a re­view by an in­de­pen­dent body. The ques­tion is why would the courts or­der in the man­ner they did? The an­swer is ob­vi­ous.

“In point of fact, af­ter much quib­bling and un­cer­tainty be­tween the Min­istry of Health and that of Fi­nance as to who should un­der­take the task to en­sure com­pli­ance with the or­der of the court, the Min­istry of Fi­nance’s Pub­lic Pro­cure­ment Ad­vi­sory Di­vi­sion ( PPAD) fi­nally un­der­took the task.

“They have pro­duced a report, of which you are fully aware of, or ought to be, in which they rec­om­mend re-ten­der­ing. And why should they so rec­om­mend? It is more than clear from the report that they found the in­tegrity of the orig­i­nal ten­der process com­pro­mised.”

The aver­ments on the role you are sup­posed to have played in that par­tic­u­lar ten­der process are dam­ag­ing. You are vir­tu­ally ac­cused of cor­rup­tion and/or abuse of power, and many other un­savoury things were said about your con­duct in that mat­ter

Mr Mphaka gives Mr Manyokole the ben­e­fit of the doubt re­gard­ing ac­cu­sa­tions that he once “mas­quer­aded as a PS”, but adds: “It may or may not be so that you im­per­son­ated and mas­quer­aded as a PS. That needs to be in­ves­ti­gated.

“The al­le­ga­tion is se­ri­ous enough that it can­not be ig­nored. But proper in­ves­ti­ga­tions to es­tab­lish its ve­rac­ity can only, in my view, be smoothly un­der­taken with your tem­po­rary ab­sence.”

The GS re­in­forces why the PS should be sus­pended.

“While in­ves­ti­ga­tions are con­tin­u­ing, you should be out of of­fice, not to have even a slight­est chance to in­flu­ence them in any way, us­ing the weight of your of­fice,” he notes.

“In­deed, it may be so that you re­ported the dam­age of your of­fi­cial car to the po­lice, but you miss the point.

“The sus­pi­cion which needs to be es­tab­lished, with you out of of­fice for the time be- ing, is that you have done all that you could to hide the true facts be­hind the dam­age and/ or cir­cum­stances thereof.

“But the mat­ter, as I said in my ear­lier let­ter to you dated 12 May 2015, needs to be in­ves­ti­gated to es­tab­lish the true state of af­fairs. And that can only be done smoothly with your ab­sence from of­fice.

“You are cer­tainly not be­ing ousted from of­fice. Al­le­ga­tions and sus­pi­cions are fly­ing around with gay abun­dance re­gard­ing your con­duct in of­fice.

“Some of these are real se­ri­ous and on the face of it, bear sub­stance.

“Mean­time, it is the re­quire­ment of the law that you can­not be sus­pended from of­fice with­out a hear­ing. It is a bit sur­pris­ing that you ap­pear to be ad­verse to the idea of be­ing given a hear­ing be­fore a de­ci­sion can be made to sus­pend you from of­fice. Your at­ti­tude is hard to un­der­stand.

“Be­sides ap­pre­hen­sion that out of sheer fragility of hu­man na­ture you may be tempted to in­ter­fere with in­ves­ti­ga­tions, there is an im­por­tant mat­ter of pub­lic per­cep­tion re­gard­ing the in­tegrity of the in­ves­ti­ga­tions in that with them be­ing un­der­taken whilst you re­main in of­fice, they are likely to be con­ceived as a farce and façade.

“You al­lege mal­ice, but there is sim­ply no ba­sis for that. My of­fice can­not sim­ply sit by and watch when such se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions are be­ing made against such a high of­fice, and which ap­pear to have a foun­da­tion.

“Should it turn out to be true, you can hardly call that ‘serv­ing the Ba­sotho na­tion with dili­gence, hon­our, in­tegrity and the best of your abil­ity. On the con­trary, it would

amount to hav­ing let the na­tion down.

“In con­se­quence, please be in­formed that af­ter care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion of your said rep­re­sen­ta­tions, govern­ment has taken a de­ci­sion to sus­pend you from of­fice with im­me­di­ate ef­fect, on full pay and ben­e­fits of of­fice, pend­ing dis­ci­plinary in­quiry or if need be, the ter­mi­na­tion of your con­tract of em­ploy­ment in terms of Clause 7 thereof. You are to hand over your du­ties of of­fice to the deputy Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary”.

Con­tacted for com­ment yes­ter­day, Mr Mphaka con­firmed writ­ing the sus­pen­sion let­ter to Mr Manyokole but de­nied al­le­ga­tions that this was govern­ment’s ploy to even­tu­ally get rid of him.

“I can’t say Mr Manyokole’s sus­pen­sion is govern­ment’s strat­egy to fire him be­cause the facts are clear as to why he has been sus­pended,” he said.

Mr Manyokole, on the other hand, last night told the Le­sotho Times he had in­deed been sus­pended but re­fused to dis­cuss the is­sue.

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