Sunday, October 25, 2020

Dow still owes AoJ from her days as judge

Minister of Education and Skills Development Unity Dow is among judges who received housing allowances irregularly, a Department of Justice and Security internal audit has revealed.

As at May this year when the audit report was compiled, Dow had not paid back all the money she had received as housing allowance while she was staying in a Department of Justice institutional house.

The auditors have recommended that the Administration of Justice (AoJ) should recover the remainder of the money owed by Dow.

The Judicial Service Commission last year August suspended Justice Key Dingake, Justice Mercy Garekwe, Justice Modiri Letsididi and Justice Rainer Busang and reported them to the police for criminal offence over housing allowances they illegally received. Thirteen months later, the judiciary is still mired in a crisis.

At the time the audit report was compiled the judiciary was apparently not aware that Dow and some serving judges still owed housing allowances which were paid out to them irregularly.

“Judge Unity Dow was allocated institutional housing on February 6, 2007. She continued receiving the allowance for five months after the allocation. A casualty return was issued on July 3 2007, authorising deduction of overpayment from Judge Dow’s salary. The overpayment was not fully recovered as there remained a balance of P869.85,” states the audit report.

The auditors have recommended that casualty returns should be prepared to effect re-instatement of deductions from Dow.

While the audit reports points out that Judge Dingake, who was suspended last year for receiving the housing allowance irregularly, had alerted the judiciary about the overpayment and had written requesting that the money be deducted from his salary, the audit did not find any records of Dow requesting that the overpayment be deducted from her salary.

Indications are that the Department of Justice was also not aware that Court of Appeal Judge Stephen Gaongalelwe had not paid off the housing allowance he received irregularly.

The report states that: “Judge Gaongalelwe was transferred from Lobatse High Court to Francistown High Court on February 3, 2004, where he was staying in a hotel. On February 24, 2004 a letter referenced PR542 1 was written to Marang Hotel by the Registrar and Master confirming authorisation for Judge Gaongalelwe to continue staying in the hotel until further notice.

“The audit team could not establish from records, the total period Judge Gaongalelwe stayed in the hotel. However, during interview Judge Gaongalelwe confirmed that he stayed at Marang for the whole duration he was in Francistown until he was transferred back to Lobatse High Court in 2005. Upon further examination of salary records, it transpired that Judge Gaongalelwe was paid housing allowance from February 2004 to March 2005 while staying at Marang Hotel. He was then transferred to Lobatse High Court in April 2005. The audit team requested for records regarding allocation of accommodation to Judge Gaongalelwe in order to reconcile payments made to him during the period, to no avail.

“As per the letter dated November 11, 2005 he was transferred to Lobatse High Court and the transfer effected on March 1, 2005. The audit team could not establish when the Honourable Judge was allocated or occupied a house in Lobatse,” the audit states.

The audit concludes that Judge Gaongalelwe “was overpaid housing allowance from February 2004 to March 2005 and from August 2007 to March 2008. Judge Gaongalelwe wrote to Administration of Justice on April 10, 2008, requesting that his housing allowance overpayments be recovered from salary effective May 2008.

“Deductions of P1 000 per month were made from May 2008 to September 2011. The last deduction of P304.00 was made in October 2011. Although the last deduction was made in October, the overpayment was not fully recovered,” the audit says.

Records in the audit report indicate that as at May 2016 Justice Gaongalelwe still owed P63 140.00.

The audit report further reveals that Justice Terence Rannowane was overpaid P47 008.95 in housing allowance. The report states that: “Judge Rannowane was appointed Acting Judge as per the letter dated May 5, 2008 effective from the date of assumption of duty. He was sworn in as an Acting Judge on June 30, 2008 and assumed duty on the same date. At the time of the appointment, he was already staying in a government pool house No 1716 Area A, Francistown. The audit team further observes that during the period as Acting Judge, Judge Rannowane was paid housing allowance of P5 937.45 per month from September 2008 to July 2009 and also paid a monthly rental of P1 664.00. Judge Rannowane was not entitled to housing allowance for the time he was accommodated in the institutional house.

“AoJ failed to inform the Department of Housing that judge Rannowane was appointed Acting Judge of the High Court and as such entitled to a rent-free accommodation. He should have ceased to pay housing rental until his tenure as Acting Judge expires.”

Justice Rannowane was paid a housing allowance of P65 311.95 against the P18 304.00 he paid as rental, resulting in overpayment of P47 008.95

 

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