MASERU — The state-funded funeral of the assistant minister Lekhetho Phakisi in July 2007 seems to have provided a platform for some civil servants to plunder government coffers.
The Celebrations Committee, which organised the ceremony, splurged a whopping M2.5 million on the funeral.
Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee now wants the Celebrations Committee to account for every cent it claims to have used.
But the problem is that the payment vouchers captured under the Government of Lesotho Financial Information Service (GOLFIS) system show that only M1 122 156.56 was used.
There are no documents to support how the remaining M1 441 371.38 was used.
This paper has detailed accounts records that show how the M1 122 156.56 was used but even that figure seems to have been hugely inflated judging by the amounts paid for services and goods during the funeral.
The document shows that between July 1, 2007 when Phakisi died, and July 13 when he was laid to rest in Mokhotlong the Celebrations Committee hired 29 catering companies and individuals.
These companies and individuals were paid a colossal M430 000 for their services.
Maluti Food and Catering got M72 000, the largest amount paid to a catering company during the funeral.
Fourteen catering companies were paid M14 000 each.
The remaining companies were paid amounts ranging between M1 026 and M23 600.
Individuals also provided catering services during the funeral.
For instance one Maliabo Tholo was paid M8 520 for providing lunch while M Khakhane received M8 120 for providing another meal.
The M430 000 spent on catering does not include the meals the delegates had at hotels and restaurants.
Some people had dinner at The Regal, a restaurant in Maseru where the government was made to pay M1 778.
At that time the average cost of a meal at the restaurant was M65. Some of the delegates had “refreshments” at the House of Exotic Cuisines in Maseru and passed on the M17 450 bill to the government.
It is not clear what kind of “refreshments” the people had to justify such a huge bill.
A dinner at Maseru Sun took M30 293.
The next day some people had another dinner at the same hotel for which the government paid M7 210.
It did not stop there because another M17 450 was spent on meals at the same hotel a few days later.
The feasting was not limited to Maseru only.
At the New Central Guest Lodge in Qacha’s Nek M64 000 was spent on three meals.
It is important to note that the funeral was in Mokhotlong, more than 300 km from Qacha’s Nek.
It is not clear why some people were having those meals in Qacha’s Nek.
Two meals at Crocodile Inn in Butha Buthe cost M17 855.
Orion Katse Lodge, which is nowhere near Mokhotlong, also provided meals to some delegates.
The Celebrations Committee also seems to have gone big on accommodation expenses, spending about M270 000.
Interestingly, just like in the case of meals, there are huge accommodation bills from hotels that are nowhere near the funeral venue.
Some people slept at Semonkong Lodge and their M4 333 bill was paid by the state.
Who was doing what in Semonkong is unclear.
People slept at Maseru Sun, New Central Guest Lodge (Qacha’s Nek), Orion Katse Lodge (Thaba Tseka) and Crocodile Inn (Butha Buthe). The Celebrations Committee also splurged M114 000 in groceries.
Of that amount M66 403 went to Maseru Supermarket while Fahida Supermarket got M14 348.
Florence Suppliers got M26 500 for the groceries it supplied.
One M L Makara got a M5 100 cheque for supplying a cow.
Airtime for mobile phones took another M24 000.
Funeral services were provided by the Lesotho Funeral Services which charged a total of M131 754.
The coffin and tombstone was M80 540 while the funeral services cost M51 214.
Interestingly, another company called Quad Promotions was paid M62 500 for what is called “funeral services”.
An official from the Lesotho Funeral Services said they provide everything from flowers, printing of programmes and other decorations.
Reanetse Selebalo Florist was paid M3 600 for providing ‘decorations’.
The government even paid one M Ngoali M3 585 who provided what is classified as ‘Mokorotlo’.
It is not clear whether Mokorotlo was a hat or a Basotho war song.
But war songs are not normally sang at funerals conducted by Christian churches like Phakisi’s.
If the Mokorotlo referred to here was a Basotho grass hat, it is still not clear why the government was paying for those hats.
Also, the funeral was in July, a time when Mokhotlong is bitterly cold and there is no need to wear a sunhat like a Mokorotlo.
In any event, the government is not in the business of buying hats for mourners at State funerals.
A caterer who spoke to this paper said she found it unbelievable that M430 000 was spent on catering alone.
“Meals eaten at that funeral were no different from meals eaten at funerals of ordinary people,” said the caterer.
“I have been in the catering business for 10 years and feeding a group of 100 people with less than M1 500,” she said.
“The profit these caterers got was just too much.”
The M430 000 used on catering alone is enough to construct a decent rural clinic.
It is enough to pay 119 old age pensioners for a whole year.
The total amount used on the funeral is M2 500 000, which is enough to construct two decent primary schools.
It can also buy thousands of textbooks that Lesotho’s government schools lack.
It is enough capital to start dozens of small medium companies in this country.