PEN­SION DE­DUC­TIONS BACK­FIRE ON GOVT

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Tefo Tefo

FOR­MER Se­nate Pres­i­dent Le­ta­p­ata Makhaola, his deputy ‘Ma­mon­a­heng Mok­itimi and for­mer Na­tional As­sem­bly speaker Sephiri Motanyane, will be re­im­bursed M164 486.22 , M160 141.97, and M192 929.13 re­spec­tively that govern­ment de­ducted from their gra­tu­ities to set­tle loans they had taken from a lo­cal bank.

The Con­sti­tu­tional Court yes­ter­day ruled the money should be re­funded be­cause the de­duc­tions were dis­crim­i­na­tory as they did not ap­ply to other mem­bers of the eighth Par­lia­ment.

Govern­ment in May this year or­dered the pay­ment of gra­tu­ities to all mem­bers of the eighth Par­lia­ment with­out mak­ing any de­duc­tions to set­tle their loans.

How­ever, the di­rec­tive, which was made to the Spec­i­fied Of­fi­cers De­fined Con­tri­bu­tion Pen­sion Fund, did not in­clude Mr Makhaola, Ms Mok­itimi and Mr Motanyane.

The trio on 30 Oc­to­ber filed an ur­gent ap­pli­ca­tion be­fore the Con­sti­tu­tional Court af­ter the Fund had docked their gra­tu­ities.

Their com­plaint was they had been dis­crim­i­nated against as the other par­lia­men­tar­i­ans who ben­e­fited from the same loan scheme did not suf­fer a sim­i­lar fate.

In its rul­ing, the Con­sti­tu­tional Court yes­ter­day noted: “The de­duc­tions for loans taken un­der the Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment Loan Scheme dur­ing the 8th Par­lia­ment are de­clared dis­crim­i­na­tory and in con­tra­ven­tion of Sec­tions 18 of the Con­sti­tu­tion of Le­sotho 1993.

“The re­spon­dents are or­dered to re­fund the amount de­ducted from the said gra­tu­ities of the ap­pli­cants.”

The re­spon­dents are the Min­istry of Fi­nance, Min­istry of Law and Par­lia­men­tary Affairs, Spec­i­fied Of­fi­cers Re­fined Con­tri­bu­tion Pen­sion Fund and At­tor­ney Gen­eral.

In his af­fi­davit on be­half of his fel­low ap­pli­cants, Chief Makhaola out­lined the back­ground of the case.

“In Fe­bru­ary 2015, gen­eral elec­tions were held in Le­sotho be­fore the ex­piry of the usual five years of the life of the 8th Par­lia­ment which com­menced in 2012.

“Sub­se­quently, in May 2015, the new govern­ment, through the Min­istry of Fi­nance, in­structed the 3rd re­spon­dent (Pen- sion Fund) that gra­tu­ities of honourable mem­bers of the eighth Par­lia­ment be paid with­out de­duc­tions per­tain­ing to their loans taken un­der the Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment Loan Scheme.

“In the mean­time, the gra­tu­ities of the ap­pli­cants were not paid un­til Septem­ber 2015 af­ter they had writ­ten let­ters of de­mand.”

The chief fur­ther stated they were sur­prised to dis­cover that the out­stand­ing loans had been de­ducted when the gra­tu­ities were even­tu­ally paid.

“The ap­pli­cants then wrote let­ters in­quir­ing about the rea­sons for the de­duc­tions.

“The re­sponse from the Pen­sion Fund was as fol­lows, and I quote:

‘You may re­call that I men­tioned that I had sought clar­i­fi­ca­tion from the same of­fice to de­fine a mem­ber of the 8th Par­lia­ment. In re­sponse it was made clear that the of­fice of the Pres­i­dent of se­nate was not cov­ered in the def­i­ni­tion, hence the de­duc­tion,’ end of quote.

“The other ap­pli­cants also re­ceived sim­i­lar let­ters stat­ing that the of­fice of Speaker of the Na­tional As­sem­bly and vice-pres­i­dent of Se­nate re­spec­tively, were not cov­ered in the def­i­ni­tion,” he wrote in the af­fi­davit.

How­ever, the Con­sti­tu­tional Court yes­ter­day ruled the ap­pli­cants should be treated like par­lia­men­tar­i­ans and also ben­e­fit from govern­ment’s de­ci­sion to set­tle the loans on their be­half.

The case was be­fore Jus­tices Molefi Makara and Sakoane Peter Sakoane.

For­mer Se­nate Pres­i­dent Le­ta­p­ata makhaola.

For­mer Na­tional As­sem­bly Speaker Sephiri motanyane.

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