Thursday, July 2, 2020

Audit clears Mochudi’s Leobo Committee of wrong-doing

Psychologists who contributed to the formulation of theories of mass communication say people tend to avoid messages that contradict their strongly held attitudes, beliefs, or behaviours because such messages cause psychological discomfort. I think that this does not apply only to mass media messages. It can also extend to intrapersonal communications. If so, this may explain why there is complete quietness and inactivity in Mochudi regarding the outcome of the audit into the Leobo la Kgotla which was seen as the biggest self-help project ever taken in Mochudi since independence. Everybody sees the project as one which will change the face of the kgotla.

One observer says to gain a better understanding of the Mochudi kgotla, as it is today, it is necessary to consider both the changes that have already occurred and the changes that are to be implemented in terms of approved plans. The first plan envisages a dramatically changed kgotla whose centerpiece is to be the traditional shelter now changed into an Amphitheatre with canted seating for 500 people. But because the site is so constricted, the architect has had no option but to reduce the available public space, the forum, to a mere apron in order to accommodate the huge new shelter. The kraal which is the burial site of Dikgosi Linchwe I and Molefi remains intact but unutilized because the infamous Mangana section have locked it presumably under the instruction of the deputy chief.The audit was initiated by Deputy Kgosi Sekai Linchwe after it appeared to him that funds for that project may have been misappropriated by the committee that had been appointed by the tribe during Kgosi Mothibe’s rein to raise funds and supervise construction work on the project.

Since Mothibe’s departure from the kgotla and the subsequent relocation of Kgosi Kgafela II to South Africa, the steering committee has not enjoyed peace. Instead of being thanked for their spirit of volunteerism, they were subjected to harassment by the pro-Sekai section of Mangana regiment which took control of some tribal matters forcibly. At the kgotla during meetings and along the streets of Mochudi and shopping centers, committee members were usually abused. On many occasions, Sekai spoke openly at the kgotla arguing that there was the need for what he called “forensic auditing of the project” because he smelt the rat.Even headmen who were members of the committee joined Mangana in rejecting financial report the committee had presented to them stating that the committee could no longer be trusted because of the long time it had taken to present the report.

Ironically, even one of the five main headmen who to date still owes the tribe P600 for the sale of a bicycle donated to the steering committee by a Fisher Palai. The bicycle was priced at P600 and the said headman promised to bring the money at a later stage. This information is said to have been passed on to the audit team but surprisingly it does not appear in their report. The Mangana section of the regiment was untouchable as it did as it pleased. It enjoyed the support of Sekai. When the deputy chief ousted the committee, he replaced it with Mangana. However, handover of the Leobo properties to the regiment was not carried out. On or about September 2018, Sekai took the matter further by approaching the District Commissioner, a Mompoloki Mochanang in Mochudi with a request for assistance with auditing of the project. At that time, he was still holding the view that the Leobo project funds were being mismanaged. It was against this background that the district commissioner requested the Kgatleng District Council Secretary to avail his audit department for assistance. The purpose of the audit was to review and evaluate the progress of the project to date. Auditing was carried out for three months starting April to July 2019. While Sekai had been calling for what he termed “forensic auditing”, auditors call their auditing work “a comprehensive audit”.Auditors have since presented their report which is marked confidential to the relevant authorities. A copy of it has been leaked to the media.

At least one paragraph of two sentences confirms what other people had been the root of the problem which led to the committee failing to discharge its duties effectively.  That sentence reads, “Audit noticed that lack of mutual trust and understanding between the incumbent leader and the committee adversely affected the progress of the project. The incumbent leader refers to Kgosi Sekai. Auditors are said to have decided not to mention him by name because they did not want to appear to be “pouring paraffin on the already burning fire.”  The report has been leaked apparently to put pressure on the tribal leadership to agree for a meeting with the ousted committee with a view to discussing it and bringing the issue to finality. It would appear the ousted committee wrote to the district commissioner on 3rd June last year asking him to convene such a meeting. The district commissioner acted highly professional in that matter. Within seven days, the district commissioner had responded in writing advising the committee to direct their concerns to Sekai. Immediately after that, the committee did what the district commissioner advised them to do but almost a year later, they are still awaiting a response from the “incumbent leader”.

Failure to have a joint meeting of the ousted committee and the tribal leadership means there may never be a proper handing over of whatever the properties of the tribe the committee may be in possession of. There cannot be stalemate on such an important issue. Somebody will have to step in ensure that sanity prevails.Although the audit report is unsigned, it looks authentic because it bears the letterhead of the district Council and makes reference to all those involved in the project.  Another area of concern was the suspension or the dismissal of the committee and the appointment of the Mangana regiment by the leadership to backfill the foundation structure without consultation with the committee. These factors may explain why since the submission of the audit report to the district commissioner, the “incumbent leader” and the committee, no effort has ever been made for a joint meeting between them to discuss it and decide the way forward.

Since the committee has been removed from office through a coup masterminded by the “incumbent leader”, it may seem that the onus rests with the said “incumbent leader” to convene such a meeting.   The audit report exonerates the committee from wrong doing especially on how it utilized funds raised for the project. It states that P431 773 55 was raised during the fund raising drive. The committee was able to account for the money used although some receipt books which had been distributed to various individuals including the headmen were unaccounted for. Audit beliefs the unaccounted for receipt books have not been returned to the committee. Of the total funds raised, P421 883 43 was utilized on various activities of the project such as construction material, construction tools and equipment, wages, printing and stationary as well as fund raising expenses.

An amount of P385 885 18 of the total was verified while P35 998 25 was not verified due to unavailability of invoices. More than P9 000 00 was cash in hand at the time of audit. Obviously, audit’s finding is not what Mangana and the leadership had expected. They had hoped that audit would uncover commissioning of crime which would lend the committee into legal troubles. They are therefore, a disappointed lot while the committee is in celebration. Audit was also impressed by the fact that committee meeting proceedings were documented and filed satisfactorily. It inspected minutes from November 2003 to December 2010. This was another plus for the committee. The first plus is being able to account for the utilization of funds raised. Non- monetary donations were also collected and recorded. This is yet another plus for the committee. Audit says things like bill of quantities, letter of request for donations sent to companies and responses, documentation on update on the project with stakeholders like the district council and building permit were properly kept.

Audit detected some serious weaknesses which could however not be blamed on the committee per se. It observed that despite the magnitude of the project, no terms of reference were formulated to direct and guide the activities of the committee inclusive of the communication plan. Another shortfall observed by audit was that the committee did not document its work plan which would have outlined the schedule of activities and established project timelines. Project activities were carried out through tasks which were given committee members during committee meetings, making it difficult to determine the committee’s effectiveness. Incidentally, the project has received a three million Pula boost from the constituency funds.

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Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.