Lesotho: DMA Boss Khasipe in Shock Resignation

14 October 2020

The Disaster Management Authority (DMA)'s chief executive officer, Thabo Khasipe, has resigned barely two weeks after being appointed to the post by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro.

Mr Khasipe also resigned from his other post as CEO of the National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC) which was set up by Dr Majoro in June this year to spearhead the country's response to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Mr Khasipe announced his resignation at a press conference in Maseru yesterday. He refused to give reasons for his shock move, only saying he had done so with a "heavy heart". He said he had communicated his decision beforehand to the premier and although the latter felt it was "a difficult decision to understand", he accepted it nonetheless.

"My resignation was done with a heavy heart but I would rather not get into the details lest we lose focus on a more important crisis which is the Covid-19 pandemic that we need to defeat," Mr Khasipe said yesterday.

"I decided to resign from this position which I was trusted with by His Majesty King Letsie III's government. I invested all my energy and I conducted my duties wholeheartedly, working closely with strong men and women of great expertise. I am happy to have worked with people of such a calibre.

"Although it was a difficult decision for the prime minister to understand, he eventually understood and accepted my decision."

Although he did not give reasons for his sudden resignation, Mr Khasipe has endured a torrid time with uncooperative government ministries and departments ever since his appointment initially as CEO of NACOSEC in June.

NACOSEC was established by the premier in place of the discredited National Emergency Command Centre (NECC) which faces allegations of corruption and wasteful expenditure on none core issues such as food for its officials instead of materials and services to fight the deadly pandemic.

When he was appointed Mr Khasipe found it difficult to effectively discharge his mandate of fighting Covid-19 due to resistance from various government ministries and departments.

The principal secretary for the cabinet, Kabelo Lehora, had even questioned the legality of NACOSEC and its attempts to access funds for the Covid-19 response on the grounds that it was not properly constituted in the absence of enabling legislation.

Starved of funds and rendered redundant as a result, Dr Majoro moved to fix the desperate NACOSEC situation a fortnight ago by appointing Mr Khasipe as the DMA CEO.

He took over from 'Mabatlokoa Molai who was acting DMA CEO and the appointment was meant to solve the legal conundrum and enable him to access funds allocated by the government for the fight against Covid-19.

He would now be able to access funds because the DMA is a statutory body established by an act of parliament to coordinate the country's response to any disasters including pandemics such as Covid-19.

But even then, it appeared there were still obstacles in his path as some DMA sources told this publication that he had still not been given the funds to purchase equipment for Covid-19 testing which is expected to run out in the next two weeks.

His appointment to the DMA was criticised in some quarters with some people questioning the wisdom of re-assigning him on secondment from his substantive post as Commissioner General of the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA).

The critics argued that the decision was ill-advised as the LRA needs him now more than ever due to its struggles to meet its revenue collection targets as a result of the Covid-19 induced slowdown in local, regional and international economic activity.

His DMA appointment immediately caused a stir after a letter alleging that he was going to earn M428 016 per annum was leaked on various social media platforms two weeks ago. The letter was signed by Mr Lehora.

However, Mr Khasipe quickly clarified that he would not be paid for the DMA post. Instead, the LRA would continue paying his month salary and other benefits in terms of his contract as its commissioner general.

It later emerged that the letter purporting to show his massive salary had already been withdrawn before it was leaked. This after Mr Khasipe raised concerns that its contents did not reflect "the true nature" of his appointment to the DMA.

THE director of human resources in the prime minister's office, Makamase Khalane, was later fingered as the chief suspect behind the leak and he has since been asked by Mr Lehora to explain how the letter leaked. Mr Khasipe said the leak was deliberately done by someone with the aim of causing confusion among Basotho.

Yesterday he alluded to the challenges he had continued to face even after his appointment to the DMA.

He said NACOSEC staffers have been working under straining circumstances and they had not been paid their salaries since their appointment in July 2020.

"The only thing that will continue to worry me as I go is the issue of the salaries of these employees and my plea is that they should be paid soon.

"I had a talk with them and assured them of my full support although I have resigned. I promised them that although I am leaving, I will do my best to ensure that they get their salaries.

"I am convinced that they will soon be paid because the process at the Public Service Commission (PSC) is at the final stage. As we speak with you today, the PSC will receive the staffers' appointment forms for processing of payments.

"The government has taken the fight against Covid-19 seriously and we have been able to release the Covid-19 statistics on a daily basis. So, our plea is for us to be assisted on time and not wait until there are barriers stopping any progress. The staff should be paid their salaries," Mr Khasipe said.

Ultimately, the Lesotho Times reliably understands that Mr Khasipe, a consummate professional, was left with no option but to quit because he had had enough of the numerous obstacles put in his way by bureaucrats and politicians who still want to lay their hands on Covid-19 resources.

"The looting that happened previously at the NECC would not have occurred under ntate Khasipe. He (Khasipe) is the meaning of integrity and honesty and such people usually earn few friends," said a source close to the events.

"While there was merit in the argument that NACOSEC did not have the legal dressing to appropriate a national budget vote, those who want to control NACOSEC funds never let up even after that deficiency had been addressed by his appointment to the DMA...

"There are some who want the Ministry of Health to be in charge of the entire process (of fighting Covid). The money for NACOSEC to do its work was not being made available... . It became a frustrating fight for him (Khasipe) to get access to resources to do what was expected of him.

"They made it look like he wanted the money to pay for his wedding when he needed it to do his work... . Whenever there are too many competing interests on what should be a straightforward issue, professionals get frustrated and quit. But if I were ntate Majoro, I would have done something and persuaded ntate Khasipe to stay on. He (Khasipe) would be a hard act to follow."

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