NMDS publicist arrested in scholarship scam
21 beneficiary students already identified by the secretariat
MASERU – Five men, including an officer from the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS), have been arrested over their alleged involvement in scholarship scam. NMDS publicist 42-year-old Moeketsi Rankhone of ha ’Nena Kolonyama in Leribe but presently resident at Matsoatlareng in Maseru appeared in court together with accomplices Motlatsi Monoane (29), Lehlohonolo Ntlale (48), Molantoa Kolobe (48) and Selake Malataliana (40).
According to police reports, Lesotho Mounted Police Services (LMPS) Senior Inspector Ramonaheng Hlao received a complaint from NMDS sometime in June suspecting fraudulent activities of issuance of certificates and payment of sponsored students’ debts within the government department. The secretariat had noticed there was a considerable number of students who appeared to have paid their debts, as per student and NMDS contract, yet the same students were applying for fresh sponsorship. This raised an alarm and the secretariat sought police assistance to investigate.
The accused are alleged to have had a hand in scamming the department by creating fraudulent academic certificates for students whose credits do not permit them to be sponsored by the department and they are said to have forged certificates for M1 500 in order to help students to ‘qualify’ for sponsorship. They are further accused of tempering with the NMDS database in order to clear students’ names from the creditors list as though they have settled their debts with the department in full, costing them only M10 000 per transaction. During investigations, LMPS found two computers that were used to clear debts which will be used as evidence in court.
The accused claimed in court that they were driven to commit the criminal acts by their quest to help students pursue their studies. Speaking to Public Eye the Minister of Development Planning, Selibe Mochoboroane revealed that the department has so far found close to 21 students who have had their debts cancelled by the accused. He was, however, not in the position to divulge the names of the students. Mochoboroane further guaranteed that the department will work hand in hand with the examinations council and tertiary institutes in order to stop certificate forgery.
“The department and the examinations council have given out original certificates features and wish tertiary institutions would know the difference between fraudulent and original certificates so that they can help the department to find fraudsters,” he continued. All the accused have been granted bail. Monoane and Ntlale paid M700 each while Rankhone, Kolobe and Malataliana paid M2 500. The case was remanded to June 29.
Meanwhile, LMPS has distanced itself from claims that 11 of the students whose debts have allegedly been written off are in detention. This follows dissemination of information by unidentified persons to that effect, also claiming that M1.5 million has been lost by government from the accused’s actions. The police have also dismissed allegations of a further group of suspects alleged to have been working with the accused at Ha Thamae where a machine producing fake certificates was found in their possession.