LCA closet exposed

. . . board member abused the Authority’s funds

KANANELO BOLOETSE

MASERU – Emotions are running high in the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) corridors amid revelations that one of the board members, Phakiso Molise, converted the authority’s funds to personal use.

Molise, an ex-convict, was appointed to the LCA board in October 2018 in what his critics say was a breach of the Communications Act of 2012 by the then Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, Chief Thesele ’Maseribane.

The members of the board are appointed by the minister in accordance with the Act whose section 7(a) states: “The Minister shall not appoint any person to be a member (of the board of directors) who has been convicted of a criminal offence.”

Media reported this week that ’Maseribane successors were allegedly reluctant to reverse Molise’s appointment, and as the row at LCA enters further into the territory of old friends turning on each other, Public Eye has seen copies of letters showing that indeed Molise was accused of misdirecting the authority’s funds.

According to letters exchanged between Molise and the then LCA board chairperson, Motšelise Ramakoae, in September and October 2019, the former missed a trip to the United Kingdom (UK) for training and converted over M60,000 in per diem money for personal use.

Molise had not completed a year as a board member when he told Ramakoae in a letter dated September 23, 2019, that: “I wish to inform you formally that I have not been able to attend the intended training in UK as was scheduled and arranged to be.”

He explained that he had an ongoing “purported overstay” with the South African Home Affairs Department which he said happened “three years ago” on the Swedish passport he was using.

“I have tirelessly worked to resolve the matter but no positive developments. I have involved our Ministries of Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs and our High Commissioner in South Africa, still nothing,” he said.

Molise complained that this issue had affected his Lesotho passport and “I cannot even be allowed to travel on transit, which was not the case before”. The acrimonious battle with the South African Home Affairs Department, he also said, had spilt into the courts.

“I had been given US$4,100 (over M60 000) by the LCA and my understanding is that this money was not my remuneration, it was per diem for a particular purpose, the training which I have not been able to attend,” he said.

Molise indicated that his understanding was that the money had to be paid back to the LCA despite that “indeed I had started using it in preparation for the trip but that is not the LCA business”.

“My only appeal is that I be allowed to bring it back by deducting 50 percent of my allowances and or any remuneration from now until otherwise fully paid. The main reason is that I have now used it to fight this court battle which is now interfering with my LCA operations,” he said.

Ramakoae responded to Molise on October 7, 2019, saying she was compelled to institute misconduct proceedings against him after a full disclosure had been communicated to the minister.

“As member of the board of LCA, who also chairs the finance and audit committee, your relationship with LCA is of fiduciary nature and as such cannot and should not be seen to be undermined,” she said.

“As a board member, your actions must be above board, exemplary and within the purviews of the law. The very act of utilising company funds for personal use can be argued to constitute theft.

“You are the chairman of the Finance and Audit Committee, that in itself should have given you reason enough not to touch the monies before the trip and returned it as soon as you were aware that you were not going to make it to the training in Bath, UK,” she added.

As the chairperson of the board, she said she was guided by her fiduciary duty to advise and compel Molise to reimburse the full per diem with immediate effect.

“The LCA rules and regulations which guide the issuance of per diem and accountable impress give a person two days after a trip to account for the funds. I am well aware that these days have elapsed but would like to kindly request that you return the full amount, M64,478.49 (US$4,100 equivalent on the day of issuance) to LCA by Friday 11th October 2019,” she said.

“Failure to refund the LCA by the set date will leave me with no choice but to institute misconduct proceedings,” she added.

Molise confirmed to Public Eye yesterday that he wrote to Ramakoae in September 2019 to propose a way to refund LCA but said he was irked by how she responded to him.

“I was writing to propose a way to pay the money back but I did not like the tone in her response. That is why I did not bother to write another letter to her but I was given banking details and I paid the money back,” he said.

“I do not understand why these things are only pushed out now. Maybe I would understand if they said I never returned the money but I did,” he added. Public Eye could immediately verify with LCA whether the money was paid back or not.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.