‘We did not steal’

The four Judges  counsulting with their Lawyers at Lobatse High Court.PIC MORERI SEJAKGOMO
The four Judges counsulting with their Lawyers at Lobatse High Court.PIC MORERI SEJAKGOMO

The four suspended judges say the information contained in the confidential internal audit report supporting Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo’s claims to suspend them is inaccurate and unreliable.

In his replying affidavit filed in court yesterday Justice Key Dingake stated that, “The factual foundation upon which the respondents’ based their claim regarding the issue of the housing allowances contain factual inaccuracies and mistakes”.

Early this month, President Ian Khama suspended Dingake, and his colleagues, Justices Modiri Letsididi, Mercy Garekwe and Ranier Busang following their spat with Dibotelo over the CJ’s unprecedented act of sanctioning a police probe into their acceptance of  housing allowances despite living in pool houses. The President then set up a tribunal to inquire into their conduct. The four in turn filed an urgent application to interdict the sitting of the tribunal and also to reverse their suspensions. The case is scheduled for next week Monday, September 28 before Justice Tebogo Tau at the Lobatse High Court.

In the audit, Garekwe is reported to have been allocated a house on January 29, 2014 and received a housing allowance she was not entitled to, from February 2014 to August 2015.

“However Judge Garekwe denies that she was allocated the government house on 29 January 2014 or occupied the house from February 2014 to August 2015.

“This is supported by the fact that the Chief Justice was still in occupation of the house in question in February 2014. In addition, following the Chief Justice’s vacation of the house, major renovations were undertaken in all the judges’ houses in Lobatse. These renovations commenced at the close of the 2013/2014 financial year, which was around April 2014. Judge Garekwe did not occupy any government house during the renovation period,” said Dingake.

He added that Garekwe did not take occupation of the house immediately upon completion of the renovations because there were a number of repairs and final alterations that required completion. “Judge Garekwe submitted a long snag list and several memorandums to the Administration of Justice (AoJ) on these issues. In the memorandums she stated that she would not take occupation of the house until all of her queries were attended to. Hence, the period for which the internal audit report claims that Judge Garekwe occupied government housing is inaccurate.”

Dingake said Busang also disputes the averments based on assumption that he occupied the house in May 2015.

He also said in respect of Letsididi, the issue of the erroneous payment of the housing allowance has in part been raised with the AoJ. “The audit report itself acknowledges that the report is based on incomplete information… Neither the Chief Justice’s answering affidavit nor the internal audit report annex documents to provide proof of the claims regarding occupation dates and the amounts owing. Such documents would include letters of allocation, certificates of occupation and the judges’ various correspondents with the AoJ.”

In his answering affidavit Dibotelo claimed that the interim audit report informed his decision to refer the matter to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). The JSC, in turn allegedly relied upon this report when referring the housing allowance issue to the police for investigation.

“However, the timeline contradicts these claims – the report was purportedly commissioned by the Chief Justice on 4 August; the audit was undertaken from 5 August 2015 to 25 August 2015 and the report was completed on the 1st of September 2015.

“Therefore, the audit report could not have been the basis of the Chief Justice’s decision to refer the matter to the JSC as he did so on 7 August 2015, only three days after commissioning the audit.”

The interim internal audit report has revealed that Dingake had wrongfully received P200,467.95 over a period of about three years. It further states that Letsididi had wrongly received P494,323.40 over a period of about eight years, Garekwe was wrongly paid P123,281.10 for about two years; while Busang erroneously received P105,468.70 over a period of about two years. The total amount disbursed is P923,543.20.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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