Global Fund withholds M4.5 million

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MASERU — Global Fund has withheld M4.5 million in funding to the Lesotho Youth Federation (Lyfe) following differences between the group and its overseeing partner, the Lesotho Times heard this week.

Global Fund is a United Nations institution that finances development projects in poor countries.

The Lesotho Youth Federation runs the Lesotho Youth Ambassadors, a group that seeks to fight the spread of HIV/Aids.

It reports to the Lesotho Council of NGO’s (LCN), the umbrella body for all NGOs in Lesotho.

The Lesotho Times understands that Global Fund suspended funding to Lyfe following a bitter tussle for the control of the donor funds between the group and LCN.

Global Fund is alleged to have instructed the two parties to first resolve their differences before they could pump in more funds.

As a result of the decision Lyfe has failed to pay its 50 workers deployed in rural areas over the past three to four months.

The Lesotho Youth Ambassadors employs young Basotho whose task is to engage in open and frank discussions with their peers on HIV/Aids as well as how they can avoid infection while addressing other challenges facing the youth.

The Ambassadors were hired and deployed in Lesotho’s 10 districts in April this year after three weeks training.

They were promised five-year job contracts with taxable salaries ranging between M4 000 and M5 000 per month.

But four months down the line, things appear not to have worked out according to plan.

Some of the workers have since approached the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR) for redress.

A source close to the feud told the Lesotho Times that the project started well under the leadership of Lyfe president, Ntšekhe Tlaba, who ensured that the NGO met the Global Fund’s expectations.

The source said it was through Tlaba’s hard work that the Global Fund agreed to pay the Ambassadors hefty salaries as compared to volunteers hired by the Ministry of Youth who work from Youth Centres countrywide.

“Youths employed by the government in a similar project are paid between M1 000 and M1500 (a month) and the funds come from the same Global Fund,” the source said.

“But as for us Tlaba managed to convince the Global Fund that our approach was different and that we are not volunteers who would go to work only when they feel like.

“It was through his hard work that the donor felt the urge to support this project in this way,” he said.

However, the LCN worked equally hard to remove Tlaba from direct supervision of the project, the source said.

“The LCN has ever since the launch of the project wanted to control everything but Tlaba kept reminding them that their role was to help Lyfe to account for the expenditure of the funds not to manage the project’s daily operations.”

He said the LCN eventually engineered Tlaba’s ouster by encouraging members of the Lyfe executive committee to resign.

“Ten out of 13 executive committee members handed in their resignation letters, leaving Tlaba, Letšoara Tšehlo and Sophie Mosoatsi,” the source said.

“The LCN knew very well that a three-member committee cannot form a quorum and that would automatically make them take control of the project on the basis that Lyfe has lost its organisational capacity and therefore it cannot handle a project of that magnitude.”

The source said the 10 members later called an urgent executive meeting where they denounced Tlaba’s leadership style.

Tlaba refused to comment when asked to comment on Tuesday.

“The project has its administrators and they are the right people to be asked these questions,” Tlaba said.

“I am only hearing from you that the project has problems,” he said.

The Lyfe administrator, Nteboheleng Lefuma, confirmed that some workers had taken the issue of non-payment of salaries to the DDPR.

She however insisted that the reason why there were no funds was because of the time lag between a grant being signed and the time the money finally arrives in the country.

“I do not know of any problems between LCN and Lyfe. The only problem we encountered is that of delays to pay workers because of long processes that take place to ensure that the funds will go where they are supposed to and that there are proper systems in place for distribution of such funds,” Lefuma said.

However, the LCN’s executive director, ’Mabulara Tšuene, confirmed that there were issues between the two groups.

“There are issues to straighten regarding the Youth Ambassador project, which I can elaborate to you next week,” Tšuene said.

“But truly speaking, the Lesotho Youth Federation lacked capacity to handle this project and us as the umbrella body of non-governmental organisations have a duty to help in the accountability part of it.”

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