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By Seleoe Nonyane
Four Lesotho Electrical Company (LEC) employees embezzled M34, 197, 567 million they collected from consumers owing the power utility.
The employees are said to have directly collected debts from LEC customers and kept the money for their personal use.
This was revealed on Tuesday this week by the inspections manager of LEC, Lebohang Mohasoa, when addressing parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on queries raised in the Auditor General’s report covering the financial year ending March 31, 2017, to March 31, 2021.
During a previous PAC sitting in October, Mohasoa revealed to the committee that a debt of M35 million appeared to have been paid but did not reflect in the company’s accounts.
The M34 million was owed by a long list of companies and the PAC learned that most of them are owned by foreign nationals.
On Tuesday, Mohasoa testified that he had been investigating the payments and they reflected only on the clients’ bills but there was no evidence of them in the LEC’s books.
He said LEC engaged those customers directly to get to the bottom of this discrepancy, noting that the company did reconciliations with some of the clients on the list so that both parties could verify the payments.
Mohasoa indicated that after reconciliations were done it emerged that the customers had paid their debts to some employees and not to the power utility.
“Some of them said payments were made to some LEC officials under the impression that they were representing the company, yet that was not the case.
“They (clients) said they thought LEC was now collecting payments directly from its customers and the officials went to their respective companies to collect debts.
He said some companies were actually conniving with the LEC employees who then went on to update LEC records after receiving payments, only to pocket the money.
Mohasoa noted that some of the companies were already making monthly payments, adding that the LEC was continuing with investigations with clients that appeared on the list of debtors.
Responding to some of the questions raised by the PAC regarding measures that the electricity company took after revelations of its employees collecting debts directly from customers, LEC head of corporate services, Moipone Mashale disclosed that they had identified those employees.
Mashale said four employees working in the LEC’s department of credit control were implicated and that two had already resigned before reconciliations were done.
“This means only two were left; they went through a disciplinary hearing where they were found guilty and relieved from their duties.
“The company’s disciplinary structure begins with line managers who are in charge of discipline working under the guidance of the office of industrial relations.
“The company has well-capacitated employees to handle disciplinary hearings as those responsible for discipline have attended the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution workshops and have gone through training conducted by other private companies in the country,” he pointed out.
For her part, PAC chairperson ‘Machabana Lemphane-Letsie said they were determined to find out how LEC had dealt with its former employees besides dismissing them from work, given that they had committed criminal acts and need to be subjected to the country’s criminal justice systems.
Her argument was that the former employees had committed serious crimes by stealing government funds.
Meanwhile, LEC’s acting head of internal audit, Seheri Rakeketsi said during investigations two individuals were implicated and at the time the company still had a police unit and they were taken to court.
Rakeketsi told the PAC that a case was opened, although he did not have the case number with him.
He said the case was against the two former employees who had resigned from LEC.
By the time the second group was found guilty by a disciplinary hearing, the police were no longer involved, Rakeketsi indicated.
The managing director of LEC, Mohlomi Seitlheko, said the disciplinary hearing was only completed a month ago, adding they will go all out to ensure that all perpetrators are brought to book.