Bank dragged into Wasco boardroom squabbles

STAFF REPORTER

MASERU – The ongoing conflict between the Water and Sewage Company (WASCO) CEO, Futho Hoohlo, and the WASCO Board of Directors has now spilled into the Standard Lesotho Bank (SLB) threatening the job security of Board Chairman Chabeli Ramolise, a senior SLB employee.

This paper understands that Ramolise, who is the CIB Operational Risk and Market Risk Analyst for the SLB, is being investigated for conduct that possibly compromises relations between WASCO and SLB, as the conflict between Hoohlo and the Wasco Board of Directors threatens WASCO’s corporate governance.

Independent investigations conducted by Public Eye this week have revealed that as a result of the WASCO conflict, there were concerns that Ramolise’s involvement could compromise the bank’s good reputation. WASCO is an SLB client which also raised concerns of potential conflict of interest.

In a recent e-mail, SLB CEO Anton Nicolaisen was asked questions pertaining to WASCO, Ramolise and the bank, as well as the legal issues the WASCO Board of Directors is embroiled in with Hoohlo, wherein Ramolise and the Board were expected to appear before the Labour Court, on a case of Contempt of Court on issues relating to the CEO.

The other question pertained to criminal investigations into the WASCO Board by the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) for alleged fraud and corruption in WASCO, case number: Maseru Central RCI 74/03/21). Nicolaisen, in his response, told this publication that a Conflict of Interest Policy was in place but he absolves Ramolise of misconduct.

“We can confirm that Mr Chabeli Ramolise is an employee of Standard Lesotho Bank and we are aware that he is also the Chairman of the Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO). “In line with our mandatory requirement for all staff on ‘declaration of interest’ for any business involvement outside of the bank, Mr Ramolise’s role at WASCO is known to us and has been duly declared through these internal compliance processes,” Nicolaisen said.

The SLB CEO further noted that it was imperative for staff to “declare and update the outside business interests (OBIs) annually and that due processes were “followed and managed internally”. Nicolaisen added: “It is compulsory for ALL our staff to declare and update their outside business interests (OBIs) annually. Due processes are followed and managed internally. “We can confirm that the Bank has a Conflict of Interest Policy and in approving all outside interest requests, including the one for Mr. Ramolise, the Bank considered conflict of interest.”

However, Nicolaisen acknowledged that the bank was aware of allegations levelled against Ramolise, adding that they were aware of the serious allegations and that “an internal investigation is being conducted”. “We are aware of these serious allegations and are conducting an internal investigation. In the interests of client confidentiality, we cannot comment on internal matters. We will have no further comment until the legal process has been completed,” Nicolaisen said.

According to impeccable sources, Ramolise has been requested by SLB to issue a response on the allegations levelled against him. This paper could not immediately get a comment from financial institutions regulator, the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL), on its position on conflict of interest declaration by bank employees, internal policies on the same and penalties imposed by failure to comply, informed by it the Fit and Proper Requirements policy.

 

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