M6million exit package for water project boss

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Billy Ntaote

The government has offered Lesotho Highlands Water Commission (LHWC) Chief Delegate, Charles Putsoane, M6 million to leave the organisation before his contract expires in March 2017.

Mr Putsoane has until tomorrow to make a decision on the offer after previously refusing to accept M5million to quit the post he assumed in April 2014.

The LHWC is the largest infrastructure partnership between the Lesotho and South African governments, and consists of three delegates from each of the two nations. The commission is tasked with implementing the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP)—a multiphase initiative  comprising several dams and tunnels in Lesotho and South Africa.

According to a letter written by Advocate Salemane Phafane on 18 January 2016 and addressed to Advocate Kuili Ndebele, the M6, 010, 799.72 exit package was government’s final offer to Mr Putsoane. Advocate Ndebele is representing Mr Putsoane in the matter.

The letter, titled ‘C T Putsoane Putsoane vs Rethabile Mosisili and 3 others – CIV/APN/152/15’ reads: The above matter refers. You have still not responded in writing to our letter of 8th December 2015. You did, however, inform us verbally, that the offer was not acceptable to your client.

“We have revised our initial offer and now formally offer you (as a final offer) a total sum of M6, 010, 799.72, being salary up to March 2017 and gratuity up to March 2016, and this being in full and final settlement. Kindly take urgent instructions and let us have your formal response by no later than 29th January 2016, on which date, the offer will lapse”.

Advocate Phafane refused to discuss the matter when contacted yesterday by the Lesotho Times, while Advocate Ndebele’s mobile phone was unreachable.

On the other hand, Mr Putsoane would neither confirm nor deny the exit package, citing employer-employee confidentiality, while Water Affairs Minister Ralechate ‘Mokose refused to comment.

However, sources within the Ministry of Water Affairs who refused to be named for fear of victimisation, told the Lesotho Times that efforts to remove Mr Putsoane started towards the end of 2014 under the previous government led by Dr Thomas Thabane and have intensified under the present administration headed by Dr Pakalitha Mosisili.

Both governments are said to accuse Mr Putsoane of incompetence and insubordination, hence the moves to get rid of him.

In a letter dated 5 January 2015 and addressed to then Energy, Meteorology and Water Affairs Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi, Dr Thabane said he wanted Mr Putsoane fired with immediate effect due to poor performance and disobedience.

Dr Thabane claimed Mr Putsoane’s “poor performance…. was aggravated by his unprofessional conduct and insubordination.”
Dr Thabane also questioned Mr Putsoane’s appointment to the “key and crucial” position, noting in his letter: “It begs the question as to whether or not, in the first place, Mr Putsoane was suitably qualified to fill-up such a key and crucial position in the LHWC. Quite frankly, I do not recall as to whether his appointment was submitted to my office or to the cabinet (for approval).
“As you know, water is one (of) our most important and valuable strategic assets, hence government attaches great importance and significance, as well as (sic) giving the highest priority to the development of our water resources.
“Special, careful and maximum effort should be given to the implementation of the LHWP in order for our nation to reap maximum benefits.
“Regrettably, it has come to my notice that the Chief Delegate, Mr Putsoane, who has been appointed to lead the GOL (Government of Lesotho) delegation on the LHWP, has not performed satisfactorily as measured against his contractual obligations…
“After due consideration, I have decided that his contract should be terminated with immediate effect.”

Before he was appointed Chief Delegate, Mr Putsoane had been employed by the LHWP from February 1989 until his contract expired in August 2004.
He started his career as a junior engineer and rose through the ranks to become assistant chief executive.

However, Dr Thabane failed to remove Mr Putsoane from the post after the minister refused to implement the directive.

But exactly a year after surviving the axe, Mr Putsoane finds himself under the spotlight once again although this time, there is a hefty package on offer.

However, according to sources in the Ministry of Water, government is desperate to see Mr Putsoane leave as he has since sued Rethabile Mosisili for trying to dismiss him “unfairly” last year when he was Acting Principal Secretary in the ministry.

The source further claimed Mr Mosisili was eyeing the post himself, hence his decision to fire Mr Putsoane allegedly for almost the same reasons cited by Dr Thabane.

However, Mr Mosisili yesterday dismissed this claim, saying he harboured no such ambitions. Mr Mosisili however told the Lesotho Times he would consider his options if ever such an opportunity was presented to him.

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