LNDC CEO fights sus­pen­sion

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Billy Ntaote

Trade and In­dus­try Min­is­ter Joshua Setipa yes­ter­day sus­pended Le­sotho Na­tional de­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion ( LNDC) Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Kele­bone Leisanyane for al­leged mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The move came ex­actly a week af­ter the min­is­ter took sim­i­lar ac­tion against the cor­po­ra­tion’s Board of di­rec­tors less than one year into its three-year term “to al­low for a re­struc­tur­ing ex­er­cise”.

Mr Setipa had or­dered Mr Leisanyane to va­cate his LNDC of­fice by 10am yes­ter­day and “re­frain from en­ter­ing the premises” un­til in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the al­le­ga­tions against him were com­plete.

But Mr Leisanyane yes­ter­day told the Le­sotho Times he had since ob­tained a High Court re­strain­ing or­der against the min­is­ter hence he was still in of­fice.

He would not give de­tails about the court or­der.

How­ever, the Le­sotho Times has since es­tab­lished Mr Leisanyane was first slapped with a let­ter ask­ing him to “show cause” why he should not be sus­pended pend­ing the out­come of the in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

The let­ter dated 9 May 2016 reads: “You are hereby in­vited to give rea­sons, on or be­fore end of busi­ness on 10 May 2016, why you can­not be sus­pended from your du­ties pend­ing the out­come of in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions of mis­man­age­ment:

Your fail­ure to en­sure that fac­tory shells in Nyenye, Tikoe and Mo­hales’s Hoek In­dus­trial sites are oc­cu­pied de­spite a num­ber of in­vestors hav­ing pre­sented their in­fras­truc­tural needs to the LNDC.

Your fail­ure to act in the best in­ter­ests of the LNDC re­gard­ing the al­lo­ca­tion of LNDC prop­erty at the Pa­pal Stand (Sethaleng).

Your fail­ure to en­sure the de­vel­op­ment of a Spe­cial Eco­nomic Zone pol­icy be­fore be­gin­ning of the new fi­nan­cial year for sub­mis­sion to cabi­net for ap­proval de­spite na­tional need for such a doc­u­ment.

Your fail­ure to se­cure an in­vest­ment for the es­tab­lish­ment of a knit fab­ric mill.

Your said rea­sons should be sub­mit­ted di­rectly to me be­fore close of busi­ness on Tues­day, 10 May 2016.”

On Tues­day, Mr Leisanyane, through his lawyers Tšenoli Cham­bers, asked for a week to re­ply to the let­ter but af­ter the min­is­ter had not ac­knowl­edged re­ceipt of the cor­re­spon­dence by 2:30pm, fol­lowed up with a proper re­sponse.

The lawyers wrote: “We had asked for seven days for which to re­spond and our let­ter was de­liv­ered to your of­fice at 11am on May 10 and to which we sought your re­ac­tion by 14:30 hours.

“How­ever, we have not re­ceived any re­ply. Our client has there­fore acted un­der im­mense pres­sure to try to meet the dead­line of May 10 end of day.

“But that is done without prej­u­dice to his right to be af­forded rea­son­able time to re­spond. Our in­struc­tions are to bring to your at­ten­tion that the con­tract of em­ploy­ment is be­tween our client and the LNDC rep­re­sented by its board Chair­man.

“In terms of his con­tract, our client is ac­count­able to the Board of Di­rec­tors and ad­min­is­tra­tively an­swer­able to the Board Chair­man.

“The con­tract fur­ther states that our client shall serve un­der the di­rec­tion of the Board of di­rec­tors through the Chair­man of the Board. But the said chair­man has not been copied the let­ter.

“Based on the above salient points which form the ba­sis of the client’s con­tract and which are clearly not ex­haus­tive, our view is that your let­ter is legally and prac­ti­cally flawed as our client can­not be held ac­count­able to you out­side the pa­ram­e­ters of the laws and the em­ploy­ment con­tract.

“It log­i­cally and legally fol­lows there­fore that our client is not un­der any obli­ga­tion or duty to give rea­sons with re­gard to what you term al­le­ga­tions of mis­man­age­ment.

“In the same vein, it is our client’s po­si­tion that both the con­tract and LNDC Act do not give you power or author­ity to sus­pend him”.

Af­ter this terse re­sponse, Mr Setipa wrote to Mr Leisanyane again, in­form­ing him that he was sus­pend­ing him with im­me­di­ate ef­fect and on full pay.

“I had re­quested that you give me rea­sons why you can­not be sus­pended and you have failed to do so,” the min­is­ter noted in the let­ter.

‘In­stead, I re­ceived a let­ter from your lawyers re­quest­ing seven days to re­spond. Re­gret­tably, I am un­able to grant you more time for the fol­low­ing rea­sons: Firstly, the pur­pose of sus­pen­sion is to al­low fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the al­leged con­duct; sec­ondly your con­tin­ued pres­ence will cause you to in­ter­fere with the in­ves­ti­ga­tions and po- ten­tial wit­nesses.

‘I am en­joined to take pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures to safe­guard the LNDC on be­half of govern­ment, more so when you have held meet­ings with staff where you have al­leged the le­gal­ity or other­wise of my act of sus­pend­ing the Board.

‘How­ever, the sus­pen­sion does not, in any way, im­ply that you are guilty of mis­con­duct.

‘Upon re­ceipt of this let­ter, kindly leave the LNDC head­quar­ters premises and your of­fice not later than 10am to­day. Please also re­frain from en­ter­ing the LNDC head­quar­ters.”

Asked about the sus­pen­sion, Mr Leisanyane said he had blocked it through the High Court in­ter­dict but said he could not say more on the is­sue as the case was now be­fore the court.

“ev­ery­thing is in the hands of my lawyers and I re­main in of­fice,” Mr Leisanyane said.

Mr Setipa would also not say much on the sus­pen­sion, but re­vealed he had also ter­mi­nated the Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary’s po­si­tion as LNDC Board chair­per­son.

“I can con­firm that I have sus­pended him and ter­mi­nated the PS as the Board chair­man which is not new as the Board had al­ready been sus­pended. I can­not delve into the de­tails of the sus­pen­sion let­ter as there are surely go­ing to be ar­gu­ments and counter-claims fol­low­ing this,” Mr Setipa said.

“All I did was pro­tect the cor­po­ra­tion by these de­ci­sions. There are rea­sons that I can­not re­veal right now why I did this. But what is im­por­tant is for the LNDC not to be af­fected or tainted by this process. We are pro­tect­ing the cor­po­ra­tion.”

The min­is­ter em­pha­sised he had no rea­son to drag the im­age of the LNDC through the mud.

“The old board mem­bers made false ac­cu­sa­tions against me when we had mis­un­der­stand­ings and I can­not drag the cor­po­ra­tion in the mud like they did,” said Mr Setipa.

Mr Leisanyane was ap­pointed LNDC CEO in De­cem­ber 2014, suc­ceed­ing Mr Setipa who had left the govern­ment’s trade and in­vest­ment show­piece un­der ac­ri­mo­nious cir­cum­stances two years into a five-year con­tract.

Mr Setipa had joined the LNDC as CEO on 10 Jan­uary 2012 and left “by mu­tual con­sent” on 30 April 2014. He had been sus­pended by the Board on 11 De­cem­ber 2013 pend­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions into his man­age­ment of the paras­tatal.

Af­ter leav­ing the cor­po­ra­tion, Mr Setipa was un­veiled Maseru Cen­tral Con­stituency can­di­date for the Le­sotho Congress for democ­racy (LCD) in the 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015 snap elec­tions.

He lost the elec­tion to an All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion can­di­date, but was thrown a po­lit­i­cal life­line when he was nom­i­nated to the Se­nate, paving the way for his ap­point­ment to cabi­net in March last year.

Trade and In­dus­try Min­is­ter Joshua Setipa.

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