MASERU — Police in Butha-Buthe are investigating four officials in the district’s local government offices who are suspected to have looted more than half a million maloti from the government.
The investigation was launched after the Public Accounts Committee instructed the suspects to report to the police.
This was after an ad hoc investigation by the committee discovered that the officials had, over a number of months, pocketed cash they collected from the sale of residential and business sites in Butha-Buthe.
The looting is alleged to have happened in Lipelaneng and Letsa-le-Moleka community councils, according to a special report tabled by the committee last Friday.
The committee said it was so shocked by the findings that it called an urgent meeting with the Attorney General, Director of Public Prosecutions and the Director of Corruption an Economic Affairs.
That meeting, the report says, was convened to “consider ways and means of dealing expeditiously with the urgent cases of fraud, theft and corruption which appear to be on the rise within the public service”.
The committee discovered that there was flagrant abuse of government resources and a disregard of basic financial regulations.
At Letsa-le-Moleka community council staff and councillors were loaned money from the safe and they never bothered to pay back.
Also, hundreds of thousands of maloti collected by the council was never deposited into a bank account.
The report reveals that the four officials treated government funds like their own.
Just over M500 000 disappeared between Matholisi Mpholle, an accounts clerk at Letsa-le-Moleka community council and Ntaoleng Sepetla, the community council secretary.
According to the report the two could not account for M249 421 and M254 910 they had collected for the sale of residential and business sites.
When they were not combining forces Sepetla and Mpholle still did a decent job working as “lone rangers”.
For instance, Mpholle is alleged to have stolen M48 000 while Sepetla helped herself to M24 000 belonging to the government.
The committee was also puzzled to find that M3 600 had been used to buy launch for councillors over a two-month period “without justification”.
There was also chicanery in Lipelaneng Community council where ‘Matholoana Majara, the accounts clerk, could not account for M25 945.
Like in Letsa-le-Moleka, officials in Lipelaneng also loaned themselves public funds and never paid back.
District Community Secretary, ‘Mankhahle Marumo, is alleged to have given herself a M60 000 loan.
Later, the report says, Marumo “borrowed” M200.
The report says the committee had discovered that “revenue collected by the Lipelaneng community council has for at least a couple of years or more not been taken to a bank account or the sub accountancy contrary to government financial practice and Financial Order 1988”.
Lending revenue to staff is not supported by any law, the report adds.
The report says the two councils in Butha-Buthe were just an example of many councils that are being badly run.
It says the council was able to establish that “all is not well in most community councils”.
The report says because it has taken a long time to deal with cases of corruption, theft and fraud in the public service the committee has decided to have more meetings with the police commissioner, attorney general, director of public prosecutions and the directorate on corruption and economic offences.