LSRC in turmoil of fuel benefits



MASERU – The Lesotho Sport and Recreation Commission (LSRC) is engulfed in turmoil due to internal financial misconduct allegedly perpetrated by the organisation’s top brass. Sources within the Sports Commission reveal a pervasive sense of disillusionment among LSRC staff who are increasingly weary of enduring a litany of irregularities under the leadership of President Litšitso Motšeremeli. Motšeremeli stands accused of misappropriating petrol fleet cards designated for official LSRC vehicles to fuel his personal cars, a practice allegedly in contravention of the LSRC’s governing Act.

Since assuming office in June of the previous year, Motšeremeli has reportedly exploited his position to siphon fuel for personal gain, utilising the Commission’s fleet cards to fill his private vehicles. “Since June last year, after his election, the President of the Commission has been regularly using the Commission’s petrol fleet cards to fuel one of his personal vehicles,” said a source familiar with the matter.

The source further disclosed that the LSRC operates four vehicles—a quantum, a sprinter, a 4×4, and a car designated for use by Chief Executive Officer Thabo Tsiki—each of which was equipped with a petrol fleet card. Motšeremeli allegedly systematically rotated using these cards every Friday, exploiting them interchangeably for his personal benefit.

“This is in clear violation of the Commission’s Act, which does not authorise the President to fuel his personal vehicles at the Commission’s expense. Should the President require transportation, he is provided with a designated driver and Commission vehicle for official use,” the source clarified.

However, the justification provided by Motšeremeli—that he attends weekend sports activities—was refuted by the source. “He frequently fails to attend weekend activities altogether,” the source further said. Another source emphasised the gravity of the LSRC boss’ malpractice, citing significant concerns for audit scrutiny. “This recurring behaviour poses a serious audit concern, especially considering this is the second consecutive year the President has utilised the Commission’s petrol fleet cards for personal use,” the source remarked.

The source elaborated on Motšeremeli’s preferential treatment of his personal vehicles, alternating between his Mercedes Benz and a 4×4. “He must acknowledge the financial misconduct inherent in his actions,” the inside source added. Highlighting the extent of Motšeremeli’s control over Commission resources, the source recounted an incident where a fleet card had to be retrieved from his residence. “The retrieval of a petrol card from his home last month underscores his undue influence over Commission assets,” the source also said.

Former LSRC presidents, Khiba Mohoanyane and Advocate Jobo Raswoko, echoed the sentiments expressed by the sources, emphasising that Motšeremeli does not have the authority to utilise Commission petrol fleet cards for personal purposes. “That is not in line with the operational standards of the Commission,” said Mohoanyane during an interview with Public Eye on Tuesday this week.

“I consistently attended Commission events utilising the organisation’s vehicles, not my personal car,” Mohoanyane said. He further noted: “Sometimes, we need to clarify the facts.” Echoing Mohoanyane’s views, Advocate Raswoko affirmed that fueling personal vehicles using the Commission’s petrol fleet cards had never been a sanctioned benefit for the Commission’s President.

“This constitutes a conflict of interest, and it is expressly prohibited by the Commission’s policies,” Raswoko said. He added: “One fundamental aspect to consider is that as Commissioners, individuals receive allowances intended for expenses such as airtime, fuel, and refreshments, alongside sitting allowances. The use of personal vehicles, funded by the Commission, runs contrary to these regulations.”

He said in instances where Commission vehicles were unavailable, the standard procedure had always been to utilise private cars. But Motšeremeli disputed the claims of his predecessors, contending that they too utilised their personal vehicles, with fuel expenses covered by the Commission. “Every past President of the Commission utilised their personal vehicles, and the fuel expenses were borne by the Commission,” Motšeremeli said.

“If this is the case, I am not the first President whose vehicle fuel expenses have been covered by the Commission,” he added. Motšeremeli further acknowledged that in instances where his personal vehicle was unavailable, he had the option to utilise one of the Commission’s vehicles for official events.

“If my personal vehicle is not fueled or available, I have the option to utilise the Sports Commission’s vehicles for Commission-related engagements,” Motšeremeli said. “For instance, my schedule typically entails attending three or more Commission meetings daily, alongside various sports activities ranging from grassroots development to national tournaments across different sporting disciplines,” he added.

He explained that to maintain impartiality across all sports codes and avoid any perceived bias, it was collectively decided that he should primarily utilise his personal vehicles. “Therefore, to ensure fairness in the treatment of different sporting disciplines, it was mutually agreed that I should predominantly use my personal vehicles,” he said. Motšeremeli said every Commission President is entitled to transportation, accommodation, meals, and other allowances, although he occasionally opts not to claim such stipends.

“There are occasions where I choose not to claim the allowances provided by the Commission for transportation, accommodation, and other expenses incurred during official duties,” he said. Meanwhile, on Tuesday of this week, a memo announcing alterations to the management of LSRC’s petrol fleet cards was circulated by the Commission’s CEO, Tsiki.

“You are kindly informed that the LSRC fleet management will no longer be managed by the Operations Manager but will directly be managed by the CEO’s office with effect from Monday the 8th of April 2024,” reads the memo. “This is a temporary arrangement until such time my office has made a final determination on the proper and efficient management of the LSRC Fleet. Until then, all transport requests should be directed to my office.”

Tsiki additionally addressed a letter to the LSRC Operations Manager, Teboho Malataliana. “You are requested to submit to the office of the CEO all documents and information pertaining LSRC vehicle(s) as well as related accessories on/ before 4:30 pm by the 8th of April 2024,” reads part of the letter. Sources alleged that this directive was intended to facilitate Motšeremeli’s continued misuse of Commission fleet cards for personal gain.

“With the CEO assuming responsibility for the vehicles, the fleet cards will now fall under his jurisdiction, a departure from previous practice,” said another insider. This development coincides with the recent announcement of the revocation of LSRC staff bonuses.

In November of the previous year, Tsiki issued a memo stating that employees would no longer receive their 13th-cheque bonuses, effective December 2024. Financial constraints were cited as the primary reason behind this decision to reshape staff benefits. Approached for comment, Tsiki initially said he was in a meeting and pledged to return the reporter’s call, which, however, did not happen by the time of going to print.

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