Government employees allege elimination by transfer



. . . as row over favouritism in foreign missions’ deployment rages


MASERU –  Foreign Affairs employees who approached court alleging favouritism in the deployment of civil servants to foreign missions are now alleging they are now being victimized in a fresh wave of subtle victimization.

The employees in question told Public Eye they are being laterally transferred to other government ministries as a way of silencing them. Eight officers have to date been transferred and they alleged this is because of their involvement is taking government to task for the shady appointments to diplomatic missions.

Public Eye saw some of the letters whose contents read as follows:

“Kindly be informed that it has been decided to transfer you from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations to…. to assume full duties and responsibility…”  The letters, which have been served on employees since April 28, are signed by Public Service Principal Secretary, Adv. Mole Kumalo. The transferred officers approached the court this week to challenge what they call “malicious transfers”

It all began when they (employees) approached the High Court in March for intervention after realising that the government through the Foreign Affairs ministry was facilitating employment of an unspecified number of candidates to serve in different diplomatic missions.

They had argued that the appointments were being done in contravention of the Public Service Act and regulations, prompting them to launch the court bid. In their application, the 17 employees want the court to declare that the provisions of the Public Service Act together with its regulations (Public Services Regulations) were violated when the appointments were made, effectively nullifying the appointments.

They also want the court to declare that the Public Service Commission was obliged to advertise the available posts and to follow provisions of the Public Service legislation regulating appointments into the Public Service.

Further, they have asked the court to review, correct and set the appointments aside.  On top of that, the employees want the court to declare that they “legitimately expected that the Public Service Commission would comply with the Public Service Act and subordinate legislation before making appointments of the undisclosed persons to serve in foreign service by advertising, selecting, shortlisting and appointing candidates based on merit, transparency, fairness and competency of each candidate”.

The ministry’s acting director, who also heads the Directorate of Legal affairs, ’Mathapelo Kanono has deposed to an affidavit on behalf of all the complainants.

She says the Public Service Commission was not transparent in making the recruitments they are challenging.

Kanono tells the court that upon their discovery that the Public Service Commission was in the process of making appointments for officials to work in diplomatic missions, they requested names of the said individuals from the Human Resource office but were advised that an instruction had been given not to disclose the names of the appointees to third parties.

“We made it clear to this office that we intended to challenge the recruitment and subsequent appointments because we held the view that they had been made in violation of the Public Service Act of 2005 as amended, the Public Services Regulations of 2008 and the Basic Conditions of Employment for Public Officers of 2011 conditions of employment.”

Their efforts, she says, were in vain as the Human Resource department said names of the appointees were not only classified but also confidential and privileged information. This was despite repeated efforts to bring to the attention of the HR staff the applicable legislation and principles that govern recruitment and appointments into the Public Service.

“I particularly drew the attention of officers serving in the human resource office that I know that the PS previously informed us that there would be appointments into Diplomatic Missions and Consular Posts, but that we would be informed . . . . Notwithstanding my disclosures in this regard, they simply refurbed all my efforts to access information in relation to the names of the persons that the Public Service Commission intended to appoint to serve in foreign service,” Kanono said.

This led to the complainants lodging a formal complaint with the ministry’s chief accounting officer – PS Tanki Mothae. However, they say they still have not received a response to date.

On January 6, a complaint was laid at the ombudsman office against “discrimination in appointing diplomatic staff for offices in Lesotho missions abroad,” one Malefa Manong complained that appointments of candidates to the Lesotho Missions no longer follow the provisions of the constitution, Foreign Service Regulations, Public Service Regulations, 2008 and the Public Service Act, 2005. She said there is a lot of political interference in the appointments. The complainant is awaiting determination by the Ombudsman.

In an affidavit, Kanono maintained that the appointments did not follow the requirements of the law.

“I aver that the HR department did not advertise the positions into which the undisclosed candidates have been appointed. I do not know if they screened the applications of such candidates in accordance with the dictates of regulation 23. The moment they failed to discharge their statutory obligations in that regard (they) made the appointment unlawful. Public Service Regulation 23 obliges HR departments to advertise all vacant as positions widely as possible so as to reach all potential applicants.

Foreign Affairs denies monopolising the posts. The ministry’s PS, Tanki Mothae says public officers serve on foreign mission only upon transfer. He says service in diplomatic missions is open to any Mosotho who meets the requirements including all public officers from any ministry. Mothae says it is unclear what positions they are contesting and weather they qualify for the posts.

“Be that as it may, I emphasis once again that public officers are not appointed to the foreign service. They are transferred to that service,” Mothae says. He contends that there is currently no need to transfer any of the complainants to foreign missions.

“All applicants are very strategic officers highly needed at the ministry. I never gave them any impression that they might be transferred to foreign missions as their absence from the ministry would cripple essential services they provide to the ministry on a daily basis.”

He has accused the employees of abusing the court process when they approached the court on an urgent basis saying they were aware that appointments of three diplomats had already been made. Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane heard the application last week and judgement was reserved.


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