MPs to pay back loans

Sunday Express - - FRONT PAGE - Billy Ntaote

The govern­ment is look­ing at how best leg­is­la­tors from the eighth Par­lia­ment could re­pay their First Na­tional Bank (FNB) loans set­tled on their be­half last year by the Min­istry of Fi­nance.

This is ac­cord­ing to the min­istry’s Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary (PS), ‘Ma­palesa Ra­papa, who was speak­ing dur­ing Fri­day’s sit­ting of Se­nate’s Pe­ti­tions Com­mit­tee in re­sponse to ‘Con­cerned Ba­sotho’ who have de­manded that the MPs re­pay the loans.

The min­istry paid M32 mil­lion to FNB on 27 April 2015 which the Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment (MPs) still owed the bank when their five-year terms were cut short fol­low­ing the mid­way col­lapse of the Thomas Tha­bane-led govern­ment.

The MPs were en­ti­tled to M500 000 in­ter­est-free loans from the bank, which were guar­an­teed by the govern­ment hence the Min­istry’s obli­ga­tion to pay-off the debt.

Ms Ra­papa, who was ac­com­pa­nied by the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Debt Khotso Moleleki and the Min­istry’s Le­gal Of­fi­cer Mo­tale Tse­ole, told the Pe­ti­tions Com­mit­tee chaired by Senator Joele Motšoene that the pay­ment was to en­sure govern­ment com­plied with the law.

how­ever, in their pe­ti­tion, the ‘Con­cerned Ba­sotho’ said the loans amounted to “po­lit­i­cal cor­rup­tion and an abuse of state re­sources for pri­vate gain” and called on the govern­ment to re­cover the money.

Ms Ra­papa told the Com­mit­tee: “Our re­sponse to the ‘pay back the money’ de­mand is that we are still deal­ing with our ad­vice to the govern­ment. We are work­ing with our of­fi­cers to ad­vice govern­ment on how th­ese MPs can set­tle their loans.

“We should men­tion once again that there are those MPs from the eighth Par­lia­ment who set­tled their loans in full. There are oth­ers who failed to re­turn to par­lia­ment af­ter the elec­tions. When we are done look­ing at how they can pay the Min­istry, the of­fice of Mr Moleleki will work on how best to han­dle the money’s re­cov­ery.”

Ms Ra­papa fur­ther told the Com­mit­tee the Fi­nance Min­is­ter, Dr ‘Mam­phono Khaketla, would have wanted to be present dur­ing Fri­day’s dis­cus­sion but ended up ac­com­pa­ny­ing the Prime Min­ster on an in­ter­na­tional busi­ness trip.

how­ever, she pointed out her role as the min­istry’s Chief Ac­count­ing Of­fi­cer, was to en­sure pub­lic funds were utilised in line with the country’s laws.

“I am a pub­lic ser­vant and my role is to en­sure pub­lic funds are uti­lized in line with the laws of Le­sotho. As a PS, I’m not in a po­si­tion to ques­tion MPs’ ben­e­fits. All I have to do is make due pay­ments ac­cord­ingly as the govern­ment is a guar­an­tor of their loans.

“I have to work in line with the Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment Salaries and Ben­e­fits Reg­u­la­tions of 2013 and as amended by Sched­ule Amend­ment of 2015. I can­not say whether or not it is wrong for the MPs to be get­ting th­ese ben­e­fits,” Ms Ra­papa said.

“Like I said, we did our part as pub­lic ser­vants. We were bas­ing our­selves on the Govern­ment Loans and Guar­an­tees Act. If we had failed to pay, we would have ended up be­ing sued as the guar­an­tors of the loans.”

Ms Ra­papa fur­ther said no one an­tic­i­pated that Par­lia­ment would not last its five-year term.

“It was not known that in a space of two years, Par­lia­ment could be dis­solved,” she added.

On the other hand, Mr Moleleki told the Com­mit­tee: “In terms of the law, if we guar­an­tee any­thing, paras­tatals or a per­son, the law binds us that this is a con­tin­gent li­a­bil­ity to govern­ment.

“To avoid mis­takes, we have to have a con­tin­gent fund. We do this for govern­ment paras­tatals all the time when they need us to pay their debts. We do th­ese pay­ments to pro­tect the credit-wor­thi­ness of the govern­ment so that we can con­tinue to have loans.

“You have to un­der­stand that debt is a trans­fer be­tween gen­er­a­tions. One Amer­i­can Pres­i­dent once said ‘lucky are the young be­cause they shall in­herit pub­lic debt’. We pro­tect the fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.”

For his part, Mr Tse­ole said the min­istry had made each MP of the Ninth Par­lia­ment seek­ing a sim­i­lar loan sign an agree­ment for the re­cov­ery of the funds if par­lia­ment does not last its five-year term.

MEM­BERS of the ButhaButhe Com­mu­nity High School choir and a po­lice of­fi­cer en­ter­tain the au­di­ence dur­ing a cer­e­mony to hon­our the district’s best per­form­ing Le­sotho Gen­eral Cer­tifi­cate of Sec­ondary Ed­u­ca­tion and Ju­nior Cer­tifi­cate stu­dents of 2015 on Fri­day.

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