Ex-civil servant denies M20 million theft

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MASERU — A woman who was last month fingered in the alleged theft of over M20 million from the National Drug Service Organisation (NDSO) five years ago has denied involvement.
Four opposition leaders last month gave police a document they said provided proof that Lebohang Hatasi, an-ex NDSO employee, was involved in the alleged  theft of over M20 million in 2006.
They claimed that the money is currently lying in a bank account in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
Thesele ’Maseribane of the Basotho National Party (BNP), All Basotho Convention (ABC)’s Thomas Thabane, Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) leader Moeketse Malebo and Jeremane Ramathebane of the Basotho Batho Democratic Party (BBDP) presented the evidence to the police on July 4.
The leaders compiled a dossier of alleged corruption in the government after they were advised by the police to do so.
A week earlier former soldier Hosanna Sako had arrested the four leaders at a press conference they had convened to talk about the alleged corruption they said was rampant in government.
Sako disrupted the press conference and announced that he was arresting the leaders because they had failed to hand over evidence of the alleged corruption to the police.
On July 4 the leaders provided the police with a long list of public servants from government ministries, with the finance ministry topping the list of alleged corrupt officials.
Among them was Hatasi who was alleged to have stolen M20 million from the NDSO, a drug manufacturer and distributor which falls under the Ministry of Health.
Their document relied heavily on a report from the parliament’s Public Account Committee (PAC) which, among others, probed the alleged fraud at NDSO.
The PAC was investigating the matter together with the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) and the police’s fraud unit which are represented on the committee.
The committee’s report shows that the DCEO representative acknowledged the theft and claimed that even the police knew about it.
“The account receivable amounting to M20 441 496 could not be verified for accuracy and completeness as at 31st March 2007 due to absence of supporting documentation,” reads a document submitted by the opposition leaders to the police as evidence from the PAC.
The leaders said when the NDSO chief accounting officer was interviewed she said the ministry of health, the drug company’s major client, did not keep proper records.
She said this resulted in the organisation reflecting unpaid claims.
The chief accounting officer allegedly said she found the fact that the government owed the NDSO such a huge amount of money very doubtful.
Upon investigation, the PAC report said, it was discovered that there was a huge fraud involving M20 million.
One of the documents given to the police reads, “She went further to tell the committee (PAC) that cheques were being paid into an account in Bloemfontein.
“It is important to note that the cheques were taken from the Treasury (Department) in Maseru to the offices of the (NDSO) in Mafeteng.
“Instead of the cheques being received in Mafeteng they were received in South Africa where they were deposited in a bank in Bloemfontein,” it added.
The PAC, the document shows, has recommended that the government should finance efforts to recover the money from Bloemfontein.
“It is recorded here that this theft took place five years ago and very little has been done about it. M20 million is a lot of money to be abandoned,” reads the document submitted to the police.
The document names Hatasi as the accountant who “had been taken over by a criminal syndicate, and owned her.”
Hatasi, however, told the Lesotho Times on Tuesday that she had nothing to do with the alleged fraud at the
NDSO.
She denied that ever worked anywhere as an accountant because she had never studied accounts.
“I don’t understand how I am associated with the job I was not given at the NDSO or anywhere I had ever worked,” Hatasi said who worked for NDSO as a customer service manager before she resigned in November 2006.
“How could the principal secretary for health give evidence before the PAC saying I was an accountant when I was not?” she quizzed.
“I am of the view that the PAC has been unfair to me in that it did not bother to call me to answer. Also the DCEO has been unfair to me before the PAC by saying I knew something about that amount of money without having come to me to investigate.”
Hatasi said the police should have called her for questioning if there was a suspicion that she stole money or she knew anything about the theft.
She also denied that at any time she was ever sent to the government treasury to collect the NDSO cheques.
“That was never part of my duty at the NDSO. I had nothing to do with the organisation’s monies,” she said.
Hatasi said she was seeking legal advice on how to handle the matter.

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