Lesotho: DCEO Principal Prosecutor Baasi Suspended

23 December 2020

The director general of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO), Advocate Mahlomola Manyokole, has suspended the anti-graft body's principal anti-corruption prosecutor, Adv Mamongonyo Baasi.

He suspended her for what he said was gross misconduct in connection with the acquittal of former Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) boss, Tšeliso 'Mokela and six former LCA board members.

The six are Lefa Mokotjo, Monare Thulo, Paseka Khetsi, Bokang Lethunya, 'Majankie Fako and 'Mamofuta Kale.

The accused were charged with defrauding the LCA of about M785 279 during the 2017/18 financial year.

This after the former LCA board members allegedly illegally approved a bonus of M785 279 for Mr 'Mokela.

A charge sheet prepared by the DCEO states that the six made the payment without assessing Mr 'Mokela's performance.

The bonus was 57 percent of 'Mokela's annual salary and this way more than the maximum 20 percent allowed, the DCEO alleged. The charge sheet also states that in the 2016/17 financial year, the board members also paid Mr 'Mokela M104 000 without a performance assessment.

In 2017 the board members also allegedly awarded Mr 'Mokela an eight percent salary increase without consulting Communications, Science and Technology Minister Thesele 'Maseribane. As a result, the LCA was prejudiced of M449 000, the DCEO alleged.

Mr 'Mokela was accused of corruption in that he failed to disclose his interest at a board meeting in which his last increase was discussed.

However, Maseru Magistrate Phethise Motanyane acquitted Mr Mokela and his co-accused when they appeared before her on 1 December 2020. This after Adv Baasi failed to produce the docket to enable the trial to proceed.

Adv Baasi told the court that the dockets were still with a private prosecutor since September 2020. She pleaded for the case to be postponed.

Had Adv Baasi got her way, this would have been the ninth postponement since the DCEO levelled the fraud charges against the former LCA board members.

However, Magistrate Motanyane refused to entertain Adv Baasi's plea. He said he had no choice but to acquit the suspects because the prosecution had failed to produce the docket.

The acquittal of Mr Mokela and others did not go down well with Adv Manyokole who attributed it to Adv Baasi's "gross negligence" in prosecuting the case.

He initially wrote to Adv Baasi asking her to "show cause" why she should not be suspended. Adv Baasi replied on 8 December 2020 but Adv Manyokole went ahead and suspended her three days later because he was not satisfied with her response.

"I acknowledge receipt of the letter dated 8 December 2020 from your legal representatives and I wish to respond thereto as follows:

"I have read, understood and considered representations made on your behalf by your lawyer, however your representations are not satisfactory and convincing enough not to suspend you.

"Your conduct which led to the acquittal of the accused is a misconduct which cannot be taken lightly. I have considered this behaviour grossly negligent and criminal because you were not ready to proceed but you decided to abandon the case. It is illustrative that you failed to undertake your duty as expected. Further, your conduct, demonstrates an act of defeating the ends of justice, a conduct which is criminal in nature.

"I have advised myself that there is no prejudice that the institution stands to suffer if you are suspended, and if there is any need to recall you from suspension, arrangements will be made.

"I have therefore resolved that you are hereby suspended with immediate effect from the on this day, 11 December 2020, pending investigations into the alleged misconduct and offences," Adv Manyokole states in his 11 December 2020 letter to Adv Baasi.

He ordered her to hand over all files and/or dockets of the cases she had been working on.

He also ordered her to hand over all DCEO property in her possession.

"You remain an employee of DCEO whilst on suspension and you may be called to perform any duties that may be assigned to you whilst on suspension.

"You should seek the permission of the director general if you require any administrative service which needs your presence at the DCEO. Your suspension is on full pay. You will be notified in due course once the investigations are complete," Adv Manyokole added.

Repeated efforts to obtain comment from Adv Baasi were unsuccessful as her mobile phone rang unanswered yesterday.

Her suspension came a day after Law and Justice Minister Professor Nqosa Mahao had moved to suspend Adv Manyokole himself over a litany of charges including alleged misconduct, incompetence, corruption and failure to prosecute former Finance Minister 'Mamphono Khaketla for alleged corruption.

Prof Mahao had written to Adv Manyokole demanding that he "show cause" why he should not be suspended to pave way for the establishment of a tribunal to determine his fitness to hold office.

Prof Mahao has since backed down and withdrawn the "show cause" letter. This after the two parties reached an out-of-court settlement in the wake of Adv Manyokole filing an urgent High Court application to stop Prof Mahao from recommending his suspension.

Adv Manyokole had sensationally claimed in his court papers that Prof Mahao and Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro had an "insatiable desire" to oust him and this was borne out of their need to "immunise themselves and other crusaders of corruption and corrupt activities from investigation and due process of the law".

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