Thabane orders firing of top LHWC official

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Lekhetho Ntsukunyane

PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane has ordered the dismissal, with immediate effect, of Lesotho’s chief delegate to the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission (LHWC), Topollo Charles Putsoane, over the latter’s alleged poor performance and insubordination.
But Energy, Meteorology and Water Affairs Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi seems to be refusing to implement the instruction, underscoring the anarchy which continues to define the coalition government, even as the 28 February 2015 plebiscite draws nearer.
The LHWC is the largest infrastructure partnership between the Lesotho and South African governments.
It is tasked with overseeing the second phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) aimed at alleviating South Africa’s acute fresh water shortages. South Africa is also represented on the LHWC.
In a letter dated 5 January 2015 to Mr Mokhosi, one of the LCD ministers in the coalition government, Dr Thabane instructs the Minister to fire Mr Putsoane because he “has not performed satisfactorily as measured against his contractual obligations.”
Mr Mokhosi appointed Mr Putsoane from 1 April 2014 to lead the government of Lesotho’s delegation on the water project.
Dr Thabane claimed Mr Putsoane’s “poor performance…. was aggravated by his unprofessional conduct and insubordination.”
Before he was appointed as Lesotho’s Chief Delegate, Mr Putsoane had been employed by the LHWP for 15 years 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.
But Dr Thabane, questioned Mr Putsoane’s qualifications to the “key and crucial” position of Lesotho’s chief delegate on the LHWC.
“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),” wrote the premier.
“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.”
Consequently, Dr Thabane said, “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 G.O.L. (Government of Lesotho) delegation on the LHWP, has not performed satisfactorily as measured against his contractual obligations…” he said.
After due consideration, “I have decided that his contract should be terminated with immediate effect,” wrote Dr Thabane.
The premier told Mr Mokhosi he had also instructed Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka to communicate the decision to the water and energy ministry’s Principal Secretary Emmanuel Lesoma “in order that he may, accordingly, implement such termination of contract.”
Mr Mphaka immediately wrote to Mr Lesoma on 6 January 2015 — a day after Dr Thabane’s letter to Mr Mokhosi — urging the PS to implement the Prime Minister’s decision.
In an interview with the Lesotho Times, Mr Mphaka confirmed both letters to Mr Mokhosi and Mr Lesoma, but refused to comment on the issue saying: “I don’t really have anything to do with the matter.
“As you may notice, I was instructed by the prime minister to inform the principal secretary about the decision and I only did that.
“I think this matter is rather too complex for me to interfere beyond just writing a letter to inform the principal secretary about the prime minister’s decision.”
Mr Mokhosi has virtually refused to implement Dr Thabane’s instruction. The minister said yesterday he was yet to respond to Dr Thabane’s letter, adding,
“I am actually the one who made the effort to hire Mr Putsoane into that position shortly after I became the Energy minister.
It was my responsibility as the minister to hire him based on his qualifications and experience. No one else will decide to dismiss Mr Putsoane except me.”
Mr Mokhosi said he was in the dark about why Mr Putsoane was being accused of insubordination and incompetence.
Although Dr Thabane did not detail the instances of the alleged insubordination, the Lesotho Times has since established the premier was, among other issues, angry with Mr Putsoane for allegedly refusing to authorize remuneration related payments for the Ministry of Energy’s Adviser, Masupha Sole.
Mr Sole, who was controversially appointed Technical Adviser to the LHWC shortly after he was paroled after spending nine years behind bars, was last year redeployed by Mr Mokhosi to become the ministry’s adviser.
Mr Sole had been convicted of taking M5 million in kickbacks from Canada’s Acres International and German-based Lahmeyer International between the late 1980s and early 1990s when he was the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority boss.
Under the arrangement, the Lesotho Times understands, Mr Sole would still receive his monthly salaries from LHWC as per authorisation by Mr Putsoane.
However, Mr Sole had allegedly not received his remuneration for the past four months, because Mr Putsoane refused to authorize his payments arguing that he was no longer under the employ of the commission.
Mr Sole, had then sought Dr Thabane’s intervention as well as that of deputy premier Mothetjoa Metsing and King Letsie III.
Mr Sole confirmed he had not received his monthly salaries “since the resumption of my new contract as adviser to both the Energy minister and his Principal Secretary.”
He, however, would not be drawn to discuss the details in an interview preferring to only say that “this issue is still being worked out and I don’t want to jeopardise processes taken to address it.”
Repeated efforts to get comments from Mr Putsoane and Mr Lesoma were fruitless by the time of going to print.

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