PM’s office clarifies funeral costs

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MASERU — Officials from the prime minister’s office yesterday told parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that they have accounted for every cent used during the funeral of the late assistant sports minister Leketho Phakisi in July 2007.

The committee which is chaired by Moeketse Malebo, who is Marematlou Freedom Party leader, had summoned the officials to explain how the money was used.

The committee has documents showing that the nearly M1.4 million used on that funeral could not be accounted for.

The prime minister’s office is the one that released the funds to the National Celebrations Committee which organised the funeral.

PAC wanted to understand how the money was used after suspecting that some people in the National Celebrations Committee could have looted the funds.

However, officials from the Prime Minister’s office denied that the Celebrations Committee used more than the allocated money for the funeral. They said the prime minister’s office could account for every cent used.

The officials also disputed the Government of Lesotho Financial Information Service (GOLFIS)’s report which reflected that M1.4 million could not be accounted for.

The GOLFIS report showed that only M1 122 156.56 was used but even that figure seemed to have been hugely inflated judging by the amounts paid for services and goods during the funeral.

The report also showed that between July 1, 2007 when Phakisi died, and July 13 when he was laid to rest in Mokhotlong the Celebrations Committee hired 29 catering companies and individuals and paid them a colossal M430 000 for their services.

The financial information system also showed that the Celebrations Committee paid for meals at hotels and restaurants, some of which were far away from the funeral venue, a whopping M156 036.

Officials from the prime minister’s office have however defended that expenditure saying the treasury department mistakenly mixed the costs of the former chief justice Lebona Kheola’s state funeral with Phakisi’s.

They said the treasury department carried forward the M1.4 million expenditure for the 2006/2007 financial year to the 2007/2008 financial year by mistake hence the M2.5 million funeral expenditure that appeared in the GOLFIS report.

The Principal Secretary in Prime Minister’s office, Moliehi Matabane, told the Lesotho Times yesterday that treasury department officials had to be called before the PAC to confirm that they made the mistakes.

“They owned up before the parliamentary committee when they were called today,” Matabane said.

“The PAC wanted a detailed report from the treasury. The treasury officials confirmed that they made mistakes and they elaborated on things some of which could be better understood by accountants,” she said.

“This office and the Celebrations Committee which it allocated the funds to conduct the state funeral were vindicated.

“The M1.4 million balance from the previous financial year that was carried forward to the 2007/2008 financial year is the one that caused this misunderstanding.”

Matabane said it was even difficult for the accountant-general to explain to the PAC what had happened until officers from the treasury department were summoned to clarify.

The information director in the Prime Minister’s office, ’Malisebo ’Mokela, added that some goods that were captured in the GOLFIS report were not related to the funerals of Phakisi and Kheola.

“Goods such as mokorotlo were part of our internal expenditures in a totally different activity but were wrongly entered into the state funeral expenditure,” ’Mokela said.

“There are too many examples of goods and services that were entered into the funeral expenditures by mistake and the treasury department has admitted that before the PAC,” she said.

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