THE former Lesotho Consul General in Durban, Lerato Tšosane, allegedly embezzled government funds amounting to M2, 9 million during the 2013 to 2014 financial year.
The allegation was raised during this week’s sessions of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) where various government ministries and departments were grilled over the misappropriation of public funds.
PAC Chairperson Selibe Mochoboroane said the 2014 Auditor General’s report noted that Ms Tšosane withdrew and transferred money from the government bank account into her personal account.
Mr Mochoboroane said that the records show that at some point M500 000 was withdrawn from the Durban Consulate’s bank account into Ms Tšosane’s personal account- something he said was illegal as it violated the government’s financial control regulations.
In another instance, Ms Tšosane allegedly claimed about M75 555, 67 to purchase furniture from a furniture shop from Mafeteng for the Durban consul’s residence. The money was also used to pay the salary of an office assistant as well as to finance a Christmas party for 27 guests.
Mr Mochoboroane said it was appalling that the Durban Lesotho consulate blew M10 000 on a party for so many people while the office only had seven staff members.
He further said that while the auditor’s report indicated that there were public funds amounting to M424 444, 33 which were held in the Consul General’s personal account that the auditor assumed would be used to pay for goods and services provided to the consulate. However, there was no evidence that such payments were ever made from Ms Tšosane’s personal account for the goods and services.
“There was no evidence that further cash payments were made from her (Ms Tšosane’s) account and moreover the payments of M2 976 783, 13 made between November 2013 and March 2014 were paid from government’s bank account by cheques, transfers, electronic funds transfer and direct debits.
The report further outlines “doubtful” payments for out of pocket claims into the personal bank accounts belonging to the Consul General and the Consul Attaché, ‘Maphamotse Lepheeana, for expenses totalling M49 654, 57 and M23 809, 90 respectively. The out of pocket expenses, the auditor’s report stated, are incidental expenses incurred by employees out of their personal resources on behalf of the employer.
According to the report, Ms Tšosane claimed out-of-pocket expenses despite the fact she also withdrew a lot of money from her personal bank account which also contained government funds during the 2013/2014 financial year.
“The auditors could not establish the reasons why the Consul General would claim out of pocket expenses while she had public funds in her account. That could suggest she used government money and then claimed it back for personal benefit.”
M14 459, 90 was also paid into Ms Lepheeana’s personal account as a subsistence allowance. Ms Lepheeana also claimed M9 347 as out-of-pocket claims.
However, the auditor’s report stated there was no evidence that Ms Lepheeana actually travelled to Lesotho and as such, the legitimacy of the payment of M14 459. 90 could not be established.
On Tuesday, Ms Lepheeana failed to authenticate the money she claimed before the PAC panel as she appeared unsure of what to say. The PAC panel subsequently ordered her to provide evidence in the form of air tickets for the two flights she claimed to have taken between Durban and Johannesburg.
The auditor’s report has also questioned the validity of the payment of M186 059, 25 by the consulate as the payments were made on the basis of quotations and invoices which were not signed by the supplier.
The report noted such payments could lead to a situation where public funds could have been used to pay for goods and services that were not rendered to the consulate.
In addition, it was noted that there were some instances of double payments as in the case where two suppliers were paid for the same services and goods.
In February 2014 a monthly rent of M40 415, 28 was paid twice. The auditors could not find the legitimacy of the second payment since there was no acknowledgement receipt from the landlord.
There was also a payment of M16 131 to Digital Air Express on 19 November 2013 for purchases and branding of A4 executive diaries at Standard Bank Kingsmead.
The same amount was again paid by the Lesotho Johannesburg Consulate to Digital Air Express on 20 November 2013 for the same goods at Standard Bank, Braamfontein.