THE Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) last week moved to suspend five of its senior managers after the authority’s workers’ union, presented the LRA board with damning allegations of financial and governance impropriety including the misappropriation of millions of LRA funds.
The five senior management officers are Chief Financial Officer Mangangole Tsikinyane, Chief Planning and Modernisation Officer Idia Penane, Chief Legal and Policy Officer and Acting Board Secretary Seth Macheli, Commissioner of Enforcement Realeboha Mathaba and Head of Litigation, Moutloatsi Lichaba.
An LRA statement issued said the suspensions, effective from 7 March 2018, followed representations that the LRA board received, from the LRA staff union (LERASU), soon after the board’s appointment by Finance Minister, Moeketsi Majoro in November 2017.
“By order of the chairman of the board, Mr Robert Likhang, the Board of the LRA decided to suspend, for a six-week period, five members of senior management,” part of the statement reads.
“The suspensions follow allegations of financial and governance impropriety made to the previous board by the LERASU in March 2017.
“Following the presentation, the board took a decision that, in view of the seriousness of the allegations against senior managers, a forensic audit exercise has to be undertaken.
“To that end, a forensic audit firm was appointed by the board. To facilitate the audit, the board then resolved to suspend for the six-week duration of the audit, the five officers.”
Some LERASU officials this week told the Lesotho Times that this was the second time the union had raised the allegations against the managers after having first done so in March 2017 to the previous LRA board.
“We were not happy that there is a M50 million LRA account that has never been declared to auditing firms and the fact that the managers were using LRA funds for personal enrichment,” one union member said.
“We were also not happy that they engaged one of the most expensive lawyers in South Africa to fight the current Commissioner General, (Thabo Khasipe) during his suspension in February last year. They actually lied to us that they had nothing to do with his predicament when they were at the forefront of the fight,” the union member said adding, they were also concerned about the unexplained salary hikes enjoyed by the top brass which, were effected without approval by the board.
One of the suspended managers, Advocate Mathaba, acted as commissioner general for six months while the search went on for a candidate to fill the position on permanent basis after former LRA boss Thabo Letjama’s resignation in 2016. Despite allegations by the Staff Union that he played a role in the suspension of Mr Khasipe, he has publicly denied these allegations.
Mr Khasipe was suspended to facilitate investigations into allegations that he “contravened his contractual obligations” by failing to pay taxes. He was however reinstated to his position in December 2017. Last month, Mr Khasipe won a major court case after the constitutional court ruled that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) did not have the powers to charge him for violating tax laws.
When contacted for a comment over his suspension yesterday, Adv Mathaba said he could not comment on the issue.
The Chief Financial Officer, Mr Tsikinyane said the LRA had indicated they were carrying out a forensic audit into the financial and governance impropriety allegations and therefore it was best for all people to wait for the outcome of the audit.
“The forensic audit will tell us the truth and I think it is best for us all to wait until after its completion and personally, I don’t remember or think that there is any truth in these allegations, but the audit will tell us the truth. This is the first time I am hearing of these issues you are raising, and my suspension letter does not say anything about them,” Mr Tsikinyane said.
Dr Macheli, who last week said he needed to get a permission from his employer to comment on the suspension, was unavailable yesterday for comment as his phone mobile went unanswered. On the other hand, a lady who answered Ms Penane’s mobile phone yesterday said “Ms Penane was sleeping”.