Row as diplomat’s children school fees gobble M1.7 million

 929 total views,  2 views today

By Mamello Moseafane

The ministry of foreign affairs and Lesotho’s diplomat to London, High Commissioner Rethabile ‘Mahlompho Mokaeane are in a dispute, over her three children’s school fees that have cost an unauthorized M1.7 million.

The dispute has spilled to the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee where both parties have appeared recently to explain how the M1.7 million bill came into existence.

A meeting of the committee heard how Lesotho government ought to pay for Mokaeane’s children’s school fees since August 2020 after only one session was paid after their arrival in London in April 2019.

Mokaeane told the committee that upon her arrival in London in April 2019, she found all the government schools closed for admission of her children.

She said she was forced to take her 3 daughters to a private school; costing the government around GBP 10 000 per session per child and a year has three sessions. KDNews has learned that today, GBP 10, 000 converts to M200, 000.

KDNews learned problems arose when the former Principal Secretary in the ministry, ’Mamonyane Bohloko, approved Mokaeane’s request to enrol her children at a private school on temporary basis, until September 2019.

This Bohloko told the committee indicated was because the government could not afford the fees Mokaeane claimed for her children.

Mokaeane said GBP 19 000 in school fees was paid for her children upon their beginning of school for only one session and the government never paid anything since then.

She said her children owed two sessions, of which she had to pay for the second one from her own pocket, and has since lodged a claim from the government.

Mokaeane took the matter to court, where a ruling was made for the government to pay GBP 10 000 pounds school fees, which she rejected arguing her children’s school fees were actually GBP14 000 and not just GBP 10,000.

But, a legal officer at foreign affairs, Malefetsane Moseme, told the committee the court order indicated government shall pay school fees within its budget affordability.

Anything beyond that Moseme said fees shall be distributed evenly amongst diplomats’ children fees.

The committee learned that upon Makaeane’s arrival in London, the school fees budget was only allocated for her three children and other diplomats’ children went to public schools that is free of charge while another diplomat’s child was not at schooling age.

Makaeane, however, did not show any other attempts to find a public school for her children as per the government directive based on financial woes of the ministry since her first attempt failed upon her arrival in April 2019.

She rather said her request to enroll her children in a private school clearly indicated that it is impossible for her children to switch schools as Bohloko had told her to do, due to the school contract terms and conditions.

The current Principal Secretary in the ministry, Retired Colonel Tanki Mothae, said his office still recommends that due to lack of the government’s financial muscle, diplomats’ children should be sent to public schools; arguing they have been proven to be the best.

Mothae told the committee there was and there is money for school fees payments, but it is less than the amount that Makaeane demands.

Mothae also said it is within governments obligation to make sure that fees are paid for diplomats’ children, but within the government’s affordability.

“We only work on the available budget. Not beyond what we have,” Mothae told the committee.

He however said there is no exact amount that the government has set as a limit for school fees.

While Makaeane has since rejected the money after Court ordered the ministry to pay GBP 10 000, she said it is not known as to where the money is at the moment because she is now promised school fees will be paid from the current financial year’s budget.

Moseme, said Makaeane could not be given the money while the issue was in court, but have no idea what happened to the money that she had rejected.

Asked what happens when the school fees exceed the government budget, Mothae said “affordability supersedes everything”.

Mothae also said as much as the government made a commitment to pay school fees, it will never agree to pay for anything beyond what it can afford as the ministry of finance would never allow the ministry to misuse funds.

Mothae also told the committee that his predecessor, Bohloko, wrote a letter to all diplomats placed in London in November 2019, titled “unavailability of funds”.

This letter, Mothae said requested that all parents enroll their children in public schools with immediate effect as the government broke.

Makaeane’s children, amid the directive remained in private school to date.

The committee is yet to conclude its hearing of evidence on Mokaeane’s row with the ministry before it makes its recommendations to parliament.