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Money talks as Letshego sees key people exit

Letshego Holdings Limited went through mini transformation in the recent weeks with about eight staff members leaving the employ of the organization through dismissals, retirement and resignations. The developments at Letshego follows recent reports of embezzlement of funds under the pretext of loans at the organization.

Mythri Sambasivan-George, Group Head of Corporate Affairs at Letshego Holdings Limited rubber stamped the organization’s “people commitment strategy” which said does not allow them to share employee information.  “Letshego has high regard for employee and employer confidentiality. To this end, we do not discuss the employment record of any individual because to do so breaches that confidence,” she said.

Of more gravity is the company’s decision to fire two finance managers who are Batswana. Their dismissal followed the exit of Head of Audit at the organization. At the moment there is another Motswana finance manager who is serving notice. In the last two months six key personnel in the finance department have left the organization.  

Letshego Holding Limited has also demoted the Human Resources Director and was quickly replaced recently. It is not clear why the HR Director was demoted but he is seen as one of those who are irked by the apparent channeling of funds to finance projects in Kenya. There are also suggestions that Letshego headquarters will be moved to South Africa. Letshego in Botswana contributes about 40 percent to the Group’s balance sheet.  The position was not advertised.

“As a listed business, Letshego is committed to strong transparency and governance principles, to achieving high levels of employee engagement and to investing in its employees for developmental and capacity reasons. This approach will enable us to sustain our strategy for growth, performance and returns and should benefit our valued team members as well as our customers and other stakeholders in the medium to long term,” Sambasivan-George served this reporter.

She explained that Letshego also invests in “talent mobility” to build and broaden the skill set of the company’s key leadership staff through exposure to other markets and business environments – “for example, local Batswana talent represent Letshego in Kenya, Lesotho and Nigeria today. Further we evaluate all such opportunities as they arise, with our actions premised on strong governance.”

Some had tried to link the mass exodus at Letshego with a recent discovered scam in which loans were fraudulently secured through the names of customers by some staff members.  But those in the know dismiss the theory and assert that the departures stem from growing discontent over staff welfare and key decisions affecting the company.  

Two months back a paper trail at Letshego had unearthed fraudulent loan applications and transactions littered with the fingerprints of some of the suspended employees.

Information passed to this publication at the time suggested that the concerned employees have been faking loan applications, using the names of genuine customers, only for the money to end up in their (employees) bank accounts.

Over the past two months investigations put the figure at over P1 million.  Letshego is the first consumer lending company to be established in Botswana and is still the leading provider of unsecured credit to Batswana. Letshego was established to provide unsecured loans to formally employed clients.

Two of the employees who were suspended from the company have returned to work. A clear indication that there is no evidence linking them to the scam, our sources say. At the time the fraud was discovered five employees were suspended.  

The employees, it is understood, prepared loan applications in the region of P20 000, P50 000 and P100 000 in the names of Letshego clients. The management is said to have taken the decision to suspend the employees in order to protect the integrity of the company and the interests of the clients.

Batswana employees at Letshego have in the past voiced out (discretely) on the apparent targeted approach that appears to sideline them. They point to a skewed salary structure that sees locals earning less when compared to expatriates. Those in the Finance department were growing frustrated over this. Just recently an expatriate with less experience was hired and is earning $7000 a month (approximately P77 000) while they range at P17000 a month.

Letshego rewards those at the top handsomely with the Group CEO earning a basic of about P500 000 a month; Letshego CEO pocketing over P300 000, and his COO earning about P250 000 a month.  Those below them are questioning the disproportionate salary structure.

Letshego has achieved outstanding results over the past eleven years in terms of customer base within Botswana. But with the latest scam some customers who caught wind of the latest scam at the financial services provider feared whether their names have been used to defraud the company which could erroneously soil their credit rating. This was one of the questions that were posed to Serumola in the questionnaire.

The Pan-African focused micro lender, Letshego exceeded P1 billion in profit before tax, a two percent increase from the P970 million recorded in the prior year, according to the group’s financial results for the year ended December 31, 2015. Managing director, Chris Low had told the media it is the first time their profit before tax exceeded the billion mark with underlying profitability up five percent excluding foreign exchange differences. Some of the employees are said to have remarked that the huge profits were not trickling down to them hence the latest fraudulent escapades.

The Letshego group operates in 10 African countries. Despite strong competition locally, the group disbursed P2.37 billion in new loans which is a seven percent increase from the previous year while in Kenya it recorded a 100 percent increase to P400 million.

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Free at last: Ian Kirby Speaks Out

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WeekendPost: Why did you move between the Attorney General and the Bench?

Ian Kirby: I was a member of the Attorney General’s Chambers three times- first in 1969 as Assistant State Counsel, then in 1990 as Deputy Attorney General (Civil), and finally in 2004 as Attorney General. I was invited in 2000 by the late Chief Justice Julian Nganunu to join the Bench. I was persuaded by former President Festus Mogae to be his Attorney General in 2004 as, he said, it was my duty to do so to serve the nation. I returned to the Judiciary as soon as I could – in May 2006, when there was a vacancy on the High Court Bench.

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Bangwato in Serowe — where Bamagwato Paramount Chief and former President Lt. Gen Ian Khama originates – disagree on whether they must send a delegation to dialogue with President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s family in Moshupa. Just last week, a meeting was called by the Regent of Bamagwato, Kgosi Sediegeng Kgamane, at Serowe Kgotla to, among others, update the tribe on the whereabouts of their Kgosi (Khama). 

Further, his state of health was also discussed, with Kgamane telling the attendees that all is well with Khama. The main reason for the meeting was to deliberate on the escalating tension between Khama and Masisi — a three-year bloodletting going unabated.

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