MASERU – Maseru city councillors who are at loggerheads with a minister over graft claims have turned on each other, and half of them now want Mayor Mpho Moloi booted out for misconduct.
At least 10 of the 19-member council yesterday plunged the MCC into chaos when they read the riot act to Moloi for storming out of a meeting with Local Government and Chieftainship minister Lits’oane Lits’oane.
Lits’oane and the entire MCC, then united behind Moloi, clashed publicly last month when the minister accused the council of graft, gross mismanagement and breaching laws governing the running of councils.
The latest development in the council that runs the affairs of nearly 300 000 people who live in the city, came out of the blue and left one half of the MCC shocked.
The group that wants Moloi out yesterday issued her with a no confidence motion for walking out on the minister during a heated meeting he had convened to iron out differences between the two.
The disgruntled councillors say Moloi’s conduct was a slight on the minister and a public show of disdain for authority.
She also stands accused of using MCC property assigned to her for official use for private gain in violation of the Local Government (Amendment) Act 2004.
The notice of intention to remove Moloi, dated 10 August and signed by 10 councillors, reads: “Kindly take notice that the undersigned members of Maseru City Council acting in accordance with section 14 of Local Government (Amendment) Act 2004 hereby notifies their intension to pass a resolution of the council to remove Ms Mpho Moloi (councillor of MCC006) in the office of Mayor of Maseru City Council.
“The said resolution will be made only if upon opportunity to be given to her to defend herself against the under listed accusations, she can fail to rebut them before a vote is taken on the resolution by the council in terms of section 14 of Local Government (Amendment) Act 2004.
“The accusations levelled against Ms Mpho Moloi by members of the MCC are as follows: She misconducted herself in that, on or around 1st August 2019, the Minister of Local Government and Chieftaincy held a meeting with members of Maseru City Council, in the said meeting, Ms Moloi without reasonable excuse, walked out of the meeting showing no respect to the lawful authority.
“Ms Moloi abuses her office, in that she uses properties that are entrusted to her for official use such as car for personal reasons beyond parameters of work and as such commits misconduct in terms of section 14(a) of Local Government (Amendment) Act 2004,” reads the notice.
The notice further reads that contrary to the provisions of section 14 (d) of the Local Government (Amendment) Act 2004, Moloi misconducted herself by holding a press conference on 30 July where she publicly defied Lits’one’s “lawful directive on administration and management of Maseru City Council”.
“On or about the 4th August 2019, Ms Moloi addressed a political rally in Mafeteng No 55 where she made several unauthorized disclosures of information of the council to unauthorized persons who were political party rally attendants.
“On the reasons stated above we hereby request your office to convene a special meeting in terms of section 14 of Local Government (Amendment) Act 2004,” reads the notice.
However, the special meeting was cut short as the motion of no confidence was neither debated nor passed after the MCC legal advisor Advocate Monts’o Mosae recommended that the Mayor and other councillors, who only received the notice yesterday, be given time to familiarise themselves with its contents.
“I think it is only fair that the Mayor and other councillors be given time to go through the notice so that the Mayor can be in a better position to defend herself and other councillors be able to debate on the matter.
“It is wrong that the councillors and the Mayor are only given the notice now, at least they should have received it three days before the meeting,” Advocate Mosae said.
Khubetsoana councillor Nthabeleng Ts’ase was shocked by the sudden turn of events, given all the councilors were barely a month united in their fight with the minister.
“We received the notice this morning and are still surprised. The nine councilors that did not sign the petition still support the Mayor because so far what we have are accusations without proof,” Ts’ase said in an interview yesterday.
In the meeting, some councillors moved a motion to skip the contentious no confidence item but councillor Metsing Mothetsi, one of the prime movers of the motion called for an immediate adjournment.
“I think it is better to call it a day today and go back to our homes since it makes no sense to continue with today’s business which will be chaired by the same person some of us have no confidence in,” Mothetsi noted.
The motion of no confidence postponed until further notice.
Lits’oane is currently locked in a battle of wits with the Maseru City Council which has accused him of sabotaging it so he can replace the current tender panel with a pliant group.
Councillors last month collectively rounded on the minster alleging there was an ulterior motive to his recent questioning of their decisions and awarding of lucrative road construction tenders.
The MCC is currently sifting through applications for the Mpilo road tender.
The councillors were reacting to Lits’oane’s bristling criticism of the MCC which he said had diverted funds for salaries to an unauthorised loan scheme for officers and councilors.
Two months ago, the MCC used funds meant for community projects and for lighting streets to pay July salaries.
He noted MCC’s policy on loans and salary advances was illegal and its tender panel had no authority to award or approve tenders.
“Apart from unlawfully loaning public funds, MCC have been awarding tenders which is against Local Government Act of 1997 which clearly specifies that councillors have no authority to award tenders.
“The Local Government Act of 1997 is clear on the roles that are played by councillors and MCC and those exclude awarding of tenders, opening of loan sharks with public funds and diverting funds from reasons they were budgeted for,” he said.
Lit’soane noted that the MCC’s policy on loans and salary advances had cost the council M3,471,800.00, lent to its officers and councilors.
“What is worrisome is that last month MCC was struggling to pay salaries of its officers and councillors and, as a result, used the money that was budgeted for community projects and lighting of the streets.
“We are wondering how MCC will cover budgeted projects and lighting of streets and even pay salaries this month,” he said.
“MCC also made a Travel Allowance Policy which is against Local Government Acts.
“I am the one that asks for money from Parliament on behalf of MCC but in the documents that they gave me to present before parliament, there is nowhere that they included travel allowances and loans and salary advances; all these they are doing in secrecy and illegally.
“As a result, I have decided to abolish the policy and from now onwards the Town Clerk will be the only one allowed to travel outside the country on behalf of all MCC officials and councillors,” he said.
The MCC policy on Loans and Salary Advances states that officers and councillors shall be given a maximum advance of their net salaries recoverable in installment as agreed with interest ranging from 15% to 21% interest, depending on the number of months over which it will be repaid.
Lits’oane said his ministry had met MCC senior management last week to discuss the illegal practices within MCC, adding that investigations are ongoing to ensure that all illegal practices are stopped.
“Councillors should cease to perform as members of the tender board. The Town Clerk should form a new tender board with different membership.
“Staff and councillors’ loans granted and administered at council should be discontinued immediately and by the end of 31st July 2019 all monies currently lent to staff should have been recovered,” reads part of an announcement government released on Tuesday this week.
Councillors, members of the tender panel and Maseru Mayor have all dismissed the accusations.
Moloi said they were never consulted by the minister about delivery issues or misuse of public funds.
Instead, she said they had been following MCC policies on loans and salary advances that was established in 2004.