WASCO suspends MoU with police



As a fierce internal battle at the water utility rages



MASERU – The Water and Sewage Company (WASCO) has indefinitely suspended its Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation and investigations with the police. This comes hard on the heels of the suspension of the water utility company’s boss, Futho Hoohlo.

Hoohlo is on a two-week paid suspension pending investigations and a possible disciplinary hearing for alleged misconduct. WASCO and the Lesotho Mounted Police Services (LMPS) on July 31, 2020, inked an agreement setting out a framework facilitating their co-ordination, co-operation and assistance in the fight against vandalism, illegal water connections and other criminal activities against the water company.

The agreement further allowed for the LMPS, consistent with its role as a law enforcing agency, to aid WASCO in enforcement actions and investigations in criminal activity – whether perpetrated by members of the public or by the company’s own staff.

Public Eye has established that the WASCO Board’s decision to suspend their relationship with the police is directly linked to the internal wrangling with Hoohlo.

The Board suspects that the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is responsible for setting the police on private investigators, Quantum Advisory Services (Pty) Ltd, who the Board has engaged to investigate allegations of misconduct against him.

Quantum has been roped in by the Board to investigate Hoohlo, on a litany of transgressions leveled against him in the running of the company’s affairs.

The police officers are attached to WASCO as per the 2020 MoU, but this, the Board claims, is in violation of the company’s laws. Public Eye also understands that the Board is unhappy and is of the view that the measures the police have taken are in pursuance of personal interests of the suspended CEO.

Deputy Commissioner of Police, Paseka Mokete, confirmed these developments to this publication emphasizing, however, that “this is not a total cancellation of our working relationship with the water company, but a temporary suspension while they deal with their internal issues…in what seems to be a misunderstanding between the Board and the suspended CEO.”

Mokete said the police administration would soon meet with the WASCO Board to thrash out the handling of the cooperation going forward.

Though he could not be drawn into discussing the reasons that could have led to souring of relations between the two parties, the deputy police commissioner said “what we have been made to understand is that the Board engaged an investigation company to probe the suspended CEO, while he also mounted an investigation into the conduct of the Board itself.”

“It must be understood from the onset, however, that the Board does not say it shouldn’t be investigated, they say they suspect that the CEO is abusing the power of his office in directing the police officers attached to the company to investigate the Board.”

Mokete said the Board indicated they have nothing untoward against the police officers attached to the company but are only worried they are being abused, and wants individual investigations that they handle to be assigned to different officers – to avoid a tinge of a witch-hunt by the same people, ordered by Hoohlo, since they report directly to him.

According to the MoU between the police and the water company, police officers attached should report to the company’s Legal Officer but that was reportedly changed by the CEO at his discretion.

The Board suggests they are susceptible to abuse.

Deputy Commissioner Mokete further revealed that despite the suspension of the MoU, pending police investigations at WASCO continue. He said, “Ongoing investigations continue, and have been assigned to different officers after being removed from those who were attached at WASCO.”

Hoohlo has rubbished these claims, responding that the engagement of Quantum Advisory Services by the Board was done in violation of the WASCO procurement policy and regulations, which he adds is tantamount to criminal activity “qualifying to be investigated by the police.”

He confirms being notified of the appointment Quantum Advisory Services Pty Ltd engaged to undertake and commence investigations against him.

He, however, argues that the appointment of Quantum Advisory Services by WASCO failed to follow and adhere to the procurement guidelines and regulations enunciated and provided for in the company procurement policies and regulations.

This implies that the transaction leading up to the appointment of the aforesaid investigating company was potentially unlawful and illegal, Hoohlo says.

“I say so because in terms of Regulation 7 of the WASCO Procurement Policy and Regulations, the procurement processes in WASCO and the award of contracts shall be free of fraud, corruption and conflict of interest.

In terms of regulation 52, all procurement processes at WASCO must follow the stipulated procurement processes outlined in regulation 52 of the WASCO Procurement Policy and Regulations.

There shall be a requisition function in the procurement process, the purpose of which shall be to identify the services needed by the company and to estimate the costs of such services through the requisition process.

The proceeding step in the regulation process is the confirmation by the budget functionary in the procurement process to determine whether the company has funds to procure the services requested in the requisition form.

It follows, therefore, that in terms of the regulations, the requisition form shall outline and indicate the estimated value of the services requested and procured in order to determine whether there is a budget in the company to cater for the requested services.”

He further adds that the police were called to investigate a potentially unlawful and illegal procurement process undertaken at WASCO as is the police’s mandate in terms of the MoU between LMPS and WASCO.

He notes he did not “use” the police as suggested by the Board, indicating that the LMPS has a legal mandate to investigate any potential criminal activity and the Board cannot suggest that their mandate should be restricted in this respect simply because Quantum Advisory Services was engaged to investigate him.




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