THE police are investigating circumstances surrounding the disappearance of over M1 million from women’s organisation Lingoetsi tsa nkhono Kholu since April 2016.
A member said an audit committee was established after the women noticed anomalies on 5 April 2016 at their blankets shop at DLM Complex in Khubetsoana in the Berea district.
The member who refused to be identified for fear of reprisals told the Lesotho Times that they set up an audit committee after suspecting that that some funds may have been embezzled. The committee was tasked with auditing the cashflows of the organisation.
She however, said the committee’s probe has been frustrated by the administration that has reportedly denied them access to their records.
The organisation is led by PC FM boss, Kholu Qhobela.
The committee member said after noticing that at least M1 330 000 was missing from the organisation’s coffers, they engaged the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) in March this year.
She said 683 women among them the unemployed and vendors are demanding answers with regards to the missing funds.
Contacted for comment the DCEO spokesperson, ’Matlhokomelo Senoko said: “The matter was reported to us but was later referred to the police to avoid duplication of efforts and resources”.
Police spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli confirmed that the police were handling such a matter.
“Police are still investigating the matter where money has been reported to have been embezzled in the project,” Supt Mopeli said.
Since June 2015, the women raised some of their revenue through pitiki concerts, where they collected gate-takings. The women also paid M1100 for membership fees which was aimed at assisting them to fund their revenue generating projects.
According to sources privy to the happenings, there have been numerous irregular transactions in the project’s account which is held with FNB. Some of the funds are said to have been used to pay illegal seating allowances to the administrators of the project.
She said according to an agreement reached by the members at a 5 April 2016 meeting the administrators and the board were entitled to M250 per sitting. However, in some instances, the audit committee discovered that the board was signing for figures ranging between M500 and M1000.
“The audit began in October 2016 but has not been smooth as the administrative committee was uncooperative and denied the auditors access to their books. However, this has since been taken care of since the election of the audit committee,” the source said.
Contacted for comment, one of the auditors, ’Maletšabisa Lerotholi refused to divulge more information on the discrepancies found by their probe fearing it would jeopardise police investigations.
She however, admitted that there were some funds which were inappropriately used.
“Some of the funds were secured by legislator ’Matšepo Ramakoae who is also a member of the project and Chief Thesele ’Maseribane. This is excluding the M830 000 which was already in the account from members,” Ms Lerotholi said.
Speaking on her part, MP Ramakoae said that she and Chief ’Maseribane had secured a donor from England for women empowerment projects.
“We got a donor who gave us M1.5 million for women empowerment projects, money which was allocated to three different groups namely Lingoetsi tsa nkhono Kholu, Tsa bo moshemane ha li jeoe and Basali khoebong. Each got M500 000,” Ramakoae said.
Contacted for comment Ms Qhobela refuted the allegations saying she was only aware of a case where proceeds of tickets for a concert which they held last year were misappropriated.
“In March last year I received a tip-off that there was someone selling our tickets for their own benefit. The number of tickets sold was not corresponding with money collected. We followed up on this matter and we nabbed our suspect.
“There was also a shortage of blankets stock as someone was stealing from us. We tipped the police that there was someone from the office who had a duplicate office key and the blankets recovered in their possession. Which is another reason why some funds were missing.
“The police are still investigating. I can boldly say that there have not been any bogus transactions in our bank account. However, I trust that the police will get back to us once they have completed their investigations. We are going to work hard to revive this association amid the storms,” Ms Qhobela said.