Tue. Aug 20th, 2019

Minister face possible jail time

 

KANANELO BOLOETSE

MASERU – Two cabinet ministers who ignored a court order to re-instate suspended Lesotho Electricity and Water Authority (LEWA) board member Pashu Mochesane with full benefits are staring at possible jail time.

This after Mochesane this week approached the High Court for relief following the ministers’ inaction.

Mochesane is now arguing he is stranded without access to the sitting allowances, which his lawyer said were his major source of income.

The two ministers responsible for the now split ministries of water and energy, Samonyane Ntsekele and Tsukutlane Au, are therefore in danger of being held in contempt of court.

Mochesane this week instituted contempt of court proceedings against Ntsekele and Au for failing to reinstate him despite existence of a court order directing them to do so.

He was suspended from the LEWA board on 4 April 2018, for allegedly failing to furnish the ministers with LEWA’s annual report within six months from the end of the financial year, but the High Court said the suspension was unlawful.

The court also ordered that Mochesane be reinstated as a member of the board and directed that the two ministers pay his benefits, which were “unlawfully withheld as a result of the suspension”.

“I aver that to date, the respondents have not reinstated me to the Board of Lesotho Electricity and Water Authority per the court order. I aver that I have not been paid my benefits per the court order, which directed the respondents to pay all my benefits which were unlawfully withheld by the applicants,” Mochesane said in an affidavit filed this week.

He also said his legal representative “wrote and sent” a letter on January 21, to Ntsekele and Au’s legal representatives requesting them to comply with the order of the court but the ministers shut their ears to his cries.

“I aver that a period of more than four months has passed since the respondents were served with the order of court and advised on its contents. The respondents know that there is an order of court directing that I be reinstated.

“In the premises, I aver that the respondents are in contempt of court for failing to comply with the honourable court’s order. There is no explanation put forth by the respondents on why they have failed to comply with the order of court,” he said.

LEWA is a regulatory body which independently deals with matters such as electricity and water pricing, complaints handling and resolution and the supervision of the implementation of the Quality of Service and Supply Standards (QOSSS) by Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) and Water and Sewage Company (WASCO).

MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism reported in November that Ntsekele and the then minister of energy Mokoto Hloaele launched a campaign to remove Mochesane from the LEWA board in February last year.

The pair wrote to Mochesane asking him to “show cause within seven workings days” why they could not set up a tribunal to investigate Mochesane’s maladministration and suspend him from the LEWA board.

Ntsekele and Hloaele said Mochesane was appointed to the board to perform and exercise “all powers and duties” vested to LEWA by its founding legislation.

Board members are responsible for ensuring that LEWA discharges all its functions and responsibilities.

They are also responsible for giving policy guidance to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and staff of LEWA and for reviewing actions taken on behalf of the authority.

“The Authority is mandated, by the Lesotho Electricity Act 2002 (as amended), to produce an annual report and submit it to the ministers responsible for water and electricity sectors in Lesotho within six months of the end of each financial year to the appointing authority in order to report to the parliament.

“By virtue of you being Board Member, for the Authority, you are supposed to have produced and submitted the same report to the appointing authority (ministers responsible for water and electricity sectors) but failed instead to produce it and submit it within the stipulated time,” Ntsekele and Hloale wrote in their “show cause why” letter.

MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism also reported that the same letters were written to other members of the board but some resigned while others found employment elsewhere.

These included Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) politician Bokang Ramatšella and Thabo Nkhahle who has since been appointed Managing Director of LEC.

In his response on February 22, Mochesane acknowledged that the board was mandated by law to make a report to the minister who shall, in turn, place it before parliament within 14 days of receipt of the report.

He further indicated that according to the Lesotho Electricity Authority Corporate Governance Handbook, the board can only make or prepare a report and adopt a decision to submit it to the minister when a meeting is convened to allow for the preparation, endorsement by the chairperson and the CEO.

He said as an ordinary member of the board, he did not have powers to convene meetings of the board. He said only the chairperson of the board has the prerogative to convene board meetings.

“I can confirm that no such meeting was convened by the Chairperson within the six months from the end of the financial year to allow for the finalisation, endorsement and submission of the report the board was mandated to prepare,” he wrote.

He said he could therefore not make a unilateral decision outside the meeting of the board to submit report.

“For the foregoing, I submit that there has not been any maladministration of my duties as a member of the Board of Directors. The intended tribunal would therefore greatly prejudice my legal rights and interests,” he said.

He also “implored” the ministers not to set up a tribunal to investigate the alleged maladministration “as none exists on my part as a member of the board of directors”.

But in their April suspension letter to Mochesane, Ntsekele and Hloaele said: “Your letter February 22, 2018, pleading to the Appointing Authority ‘not to set up a Tribunal to investigate’ and further not to suspend you from LEWA Board membership is not acceptable.”

This compelled Mochesane to file an application in the high court in July asking the court to review the suspension and set it aside as irregular and unlawful.

Hloaele was transferred from the ministry of energy to the ministry of home affairs last week. He was replaced by Au who was previously minister of home affairs.

 

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