In a rather audacious move, Reatile Elias, the former Human Resource Manager at the National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC), allegedly orchestrated an unauthorised salary bump during his tenure.
Reports suggest that Elias surreptitiously elevated his monthly earnings from M75,000 to a staggering M90,000, all the while holding the position of HR manager at NACOSEC.
These eyebrow-raising allegations came to light during a parliamentary session of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) this week, where former NACOSEC Chief Executive â€˜Malitaba Litaba let the proverbial cat out of the bag.
Litaba did not mince her words, explaining her decision to suspend Elias upon assuming the role of Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
â€œI decided to suspend him from work because I had found out that he processed M90,000 for himself while he was supposed to earn M75,000,â€ she candidly stated.
Litaba proceeded to drop another bombshell, divulging that, according to the established salary structure, Elias belonged to the category of senior Management 1.
This categorisation should have entitled him to an initial salary of M75,000. However, Elias had other plans. He ingeniously placed himself under the Executive 1 level, magically inflating his salary to M90,000.
With this revelation, Elias soon found himself suspended from his duties, and the excess funds he had spirited away from the payroll were promptly reclaimed from his delayed payments.
Litaba further remarked: â€œAfter that, he appealed the decision and we tried to negotiate with him, but were unsuccessful. As far as I am concerned, I did not receive any complaint from him or the court.â€
Supporting Litabaâ€™s account, former Director of Human Resources at NACOSEC, MpontÅ¡eng Pama Letsoela, confirmed that Eliasâ€™ position was associated with an entry point salary of M75,000, a Midpoint of M85,000, and a Maximum point of M90,000.
Letsoela offered a startling revelation that the contents of Eliasâ€™ offer letter, including his salary, were privy only to him.
â€œThe staff experienced delays in receiving their salaries, and it was only after four months when salaries were processed for the first time, that the overpaid salary of Mr. Elias was discovered.â€
During the PAC session, MP â€˜Mamarame Matela astutely pointed out that, in normal circumstances, the head of HR is not typically entrusted with payroll processing. This role usually falls under the purview of a payroll assistant who collaborates closely with the finance division. In Elias’ case, however, he decided to wear both hats.
In his defense before the PAC, Elias confidently stated that he received a monthly salary of M90,000, asserting that the NACOSEC salary structure was established independently of the Public Service Schedule.
He further disclosed that the structure had been proposed to the task force team after benchmarking exercises and subsequently gained approval.
Elias served as the Human Resource Manager at NACOSEC from July 2020 to December 2020, a tenure that will surely be etched in the countryâ€™s bureaucratic annals.
In the larger context, the establishment of NACOSEC was an initiative set in motion by a legal notice in June 2020, issued by the then-Minister in the Prime Ministerâ€™s office, Kemiso Mosenene.
This was part of the national strategy to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
The subsequent Auditor Generalâ€™s report, however, uncovered a multitude of irregularities in the establishment of NACOSEC.
From staff deployments to employment contracts, it appears that compliance with the existing legal framework was lacking.
The report indicated that in July 2020, the CEO of NACOSEC requested the release of government personnel from the Government Secretary (GS) to join NACOSEC.
The Auditor General said she could not establish how the expertise of those individuals would provide professional support that specifically relates to COVID-19.
She said staff deployment at NACOSEC was not done in consultation with the Public Service Commission as required by the Legal Notice No. 61 of 2020(2) rather, appointments were done by the CEO of NACOSEC.
The Auditor General also found that contracts of employment for NACOSEC staff stated that they would be paid state salaries and other benefits yet appointments were made during a national crisis, for which the Disaster Management Act accords the responsible minister powers to utilise resources â€“ human and financial â€“ that are within reach from all sectors of government.
She said officers deployed at NACOSEC were given contract appointments ranging from four to six months starting from July 2020.
Contract appointments attract benefits such as gratuity payable upon termination thereby increasing government expenditure.
â€œSome employment contracts stipulated a monthly honorarium payable to the value of M20,000 per month. That was against the government policy which requires that honoraria should not exceed M5 000 and is payable once on completion of a special assignment,â€ read the report.