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Mind-boggling theft of resources



AN internal audit report prepared by the Ministry of Finance on Covid-19 related expenditure for the financial years 2019/20-20/21 has exposed shocking lack of internal controls in implementing Covid-19 activities.

While the report was released on July 14, 2021 it only came to the public’s attention this week. The report appears to confirm what we have always suspected – that rogue individuals were exploiting opportunities brought by the Covid-19 pandemic to enrich themselves.

To achieve their goals, such individuals exploited the weak financial control systems within government ministries and in some cases, willfully flouted the government’s procurement regulations.
But there have also been shocking cases of wasteful expenditure that are mind-boggling.

All in all, the report appears to back up allegations that some individuals took advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic and the lax internal control mechanisms within the ministries to line up their pockets.

The result has been what has amounted to massive looting of the government resources on an industrial scale. If these individuals are allowed to get away with this massive level of looting, it would set a very bad precedent for Lesotho.

The auditor discovered that there were “inadequate internal controls in implementing Covid-19 activities”.

“With the amount spent on constructing of park homes for the six border posts, better and existing labs could have been refurbished or proper building structures” could have been built, says the report.

Most of the funds available were squandered on catering and allowances for staff involved in Covid-19 activities and not core activities to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The report also points to what it says is the “high staff complement at Nacosec”. These public officers got allowances that ranged from M2 000 to as much as M30 000 each between December 2020 and March 2021 totalling M1 711 314.00.

“It is not clear how the rates of these allowances were determined, how they were approved and by whom,” it says.

The whole staff structure at Nacosec was deemed to have been “too big, duplicative to Disaster Management Authority (DMA) positions and functions and too costly to the budget”.
The report says prices charged on some goods and services appeared to have been overstated or inflated significantly.

These include thermos scanners and fogging machines, tents, park homes, water tanks and hospital beds. It said the National Covid-19 Secretariat rented Avani Maseru Hotel for office space, accommodation and meals for its deputy CEO without a contract agreement.

The requisitions and purchase order were prepared and signed retrospectively, three to four months after services were rendered.

Nacosec inexplicably went on to acquire “two rooms for accommodation and meals” for its deputy CEO at a cost of M1 622 per room raising questions as to “why two rooms were rented and how the tenant occupied both of them”.

The report says “controls surrounding the Covid-19 initiative are unsatisfactory with regards to safeguarding of assets, compliance with rules and regulations, accomplishment of objectives for the best interests of the government of Lesotho”.

On the basis of the above findings, we would agree with its recommendation that those found guilty of any wasteful expenditure must be held responsible.

But we know that is not how things are done in Lesotho. We are likely to raise some dust and that will be the end of the story and the looting continues.

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