WASCO strives to outbox suspended CEO



MASERU – Water and Sewage Company (WASCO) Chief Executive, Futho Hoohlo, is under tremendous pressure to leave his job at the sewage company. Government, particularly the Ministry of Water is unhappy with his stay in office for reasons undisclosed. Hoohlo makes the allegations in letter he wrote to the company’s board of directors responding to charges of wrongdoing alleged on his part.

“…You have made it clear that the shareholder being the government of Lesotho has exerted tremendous pressure on the board to dismiss me for the reasons which you are not prepared to disclose,” Hoohlo alleges.

WASCO’s board chairman, Chabeli Ramolise, on February 3 gave Hoohlo two days to show cause why a disciplinary action may be taken against him.  Ramolise had laid a litany of complaints against Hoohlo ranging from contravention of employment contract, making a false statement and negligence.

It is said that Hoohlo is a board member in other entities in contravention of his employment contract and WASCO’s policies and regulations. It is also alleged that during or about July 2020, Hoohlo circumvented WASCO secondment policy and seconded Director of Corporate Services, Litsebe Jimson to National COVID-19 secondment policy, an allegation he denies.

Hoohlo is also accused of making a false statement in August 2020 during the company’s meeting. The statement is to the effect that Director Corporate Services was not seconded to National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSE).

He argues that Jimson is not seconded to NACOSEC but says he was attached at the National Emergency Command Center (NECC) as WASCO’s representative.

In his line of duty Hoolho is said to have suspended applications of new water connection resulting in the sewage company loosing revenue. In doing so, the board say he was negligent and failed to exercise proper care and attention.

“That during the calendar year 2020 until January 2021, under your leadership, WASCO suspended applications for new water connections. You did not exercise proper care and attention in taking this decision which led or was likely to lead to WASCO losing revenue.

As a result, you are alleged to have acted in grossly negligent manner in taking the decision in issue, particularly when TOC had already expressed its reservation about the idea of suspending application for new water connections when it was raised in its 5th ordinary meeting,” reads part of the letter.

Further it is alleged that Hoohlo frustrated implementation of Human Resource and Remuneration Committee (HRRC) and board resolution placing the Chief Legal officer (CLO) and Company Secretary on a fixed term contract and made misleading statements of impropriety against the CLO and company secretary to the committee in August 2020

Hoohlo denies the allegations in his reply to the show cause and says it would not be wise to subject him to disciplinary proceedings on the basis of the allegations cited in the letter.

He says while he sits as a trustee of the Boards of the Public Officers and Specified Offices Defined Contribution Pension Funds, and that the board was aware of this status from the first time he joined the company.

“I notified you of my membership of those boards, you consented that my membership would not conflict with my duties and that as long as I would make up for the time that I spent in its meetings, there would be no problem.

As a matter of fact, the board has always known that I am a member of the board of Trustees of the Pension Fund since my appointment as the chief executive,” argues Hoohlo.

The embattled officer further argues that he when he took a decision to suspend applications for new water connections, the board agreed with him and commended the decision as “great” saying it was taken in the best interest of the company.

On top of that, Hoohlo denies ever frustrating implementation of board resolutions. Instead, he says he initiated an investigation and observed irregularities “as demonstrated in my letter to Chairperson of the Human Resource and Remuneration Committee (HRRC) dated August 23 2020.” In doing so, he says it was not a misconduct but was rather working in the best interest of the company.

Hoohlo was placed on a four weeks’ suspension from November 2020 under the pretex that the company was to investigate his hostile attitude against the Ministry of Water as a shareholder and main stakeholder as well as his negligence in the conduct of the tender for Maseru Waste Water Project.

The suspension letter said it was necessary that Hoohlo be on suspension for the fact that there was a potential of him being obstructive to the investigations against him by virtue of occupying a position of influence in the company where its employees have to assist in the investigations.

The letter added “there are aspects in the inquiry which attract the potential for criminal investigation and to which your continued occupation of office will be obstructive or inhibitive in one way or the other.”

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