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‘Alooter’ continua!



A comprehensive 235-page report by the Auditor General, Monica M Besetsa, on the consolidated financial statements of the government of Lesotho makes harrowing reading. In summary, the report graphically captures what is wrong with Lesotho. It lists a litany of shocking malpractices by government officials, including ministers. Yet despite clear evidence of wrong-doing, nothing has been done to correct the wrongs. It is still business as usual. That is what particularly worries us. But this is not something new. Over the years, we have grown accustomed to reading such powerful reports by the Auditor General year in year out. To a large extent the reports have since lost their shock value. Despite clear evidence of wrong-doing, we have not seen any major arrests of the offending civil servants. In fact, some appear to have gotten away with it, after pocketing huge amounts then summarily taking early retirement. We will proceed by citing a few shocking cases that graphically captures the extent of the rot within the government. Five officers from the Ministry of Gender and a Minister owed a total of M478 194 which was paid to them to allow them to travel to New York. The trip was however postponed following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. In a shocking twist, the five officers and the minister never returned the cash to the government even though the trip was postponed indefinitely. Even though the Minister of Finance wrote to the officers to explain why they could not be surcharged for the loss, the Auditor General says she is “not aware of any action taken on this matter to date”. The Chief Technical Officer and the Equipment Specialist in the Ministry of Health absented themselves from official duties for a period of 24 months running from April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2017. They continued to receive salaries totaling M849 888. In a bizarre twist to the case, the Chief Technical Officer proceeded to take early retirement on June 1, 2017. The amount of M345 384 that was paid to him irregularly was never recovered from his terminal benefits. The Equipment Specialist also resigned on September 1, 2018 when he was still owing M504 504. The money was also never recovered from his terminal benefits. Besetsa says this raises “serious concerns why the ministry failed to indicate that the officers owed government so that recoveries could be made from their terminal benefits”. Talk of a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. This is just a sneak peek into the levels of malfeasance within the government ministries. It would be fitting and timely to call for heads to roll. But we know nothing of that sort is going to happen. The job of Auditor General must be a very frustrating one indeed. The constant merry-go-round of report after report with no tangible movement to arrest the rot must be extremely disappointing. We have a toothless Parliament and law enforcement agencies. Despite hauling the culprits before Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee nothing much happens after clear evidence has been presented before the committee. That is what disappoints us most. The reality is that we need political will to arrest and reverse the grand corruption within government departments. Until we see the big fish being arrested and jailed, nothing much is going to change.

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