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‘We’ve to tweak Constitution to give AG autonomy’



Staff Reporter


CHAIRMAN of the parliament economic cluster, the Lebakeng MP Semano Sekatle, is concerned that the Auditor General’s salary might compromise her autonomy.

Sekatle is also concerned that “we have to change the constitution itself” if they want to deal with how the Auditor General is paid, according to the explanation he said he got from Finance Minister ’Mamphono Khaketla.

Sekatle said this when he tabled the motion to the House to adopt the report of his portfolio committee on the Economic and Development Cluster on the Audit Bill 2015 on Wednesday last week.

“This Bill is very important, particularly because it seeks to establish an independent Auditor General’s Office,” Sekatle said.

“However, the problem we encountered is that we have recommended the minister to review this problem and she told us that if we want to solve it then we have to change the constitution itself,” he said.

Sekatle said their problem as the committee was that they wanted the Bill to include that the minister will not determine the Auditor General’s salary under the statutory position holders because that might compromise her independence.

He said one day the Auditor General will find herself earning a salary smaller than her subordinates.

“It will be extremely unhealthy and difficult,” he said.

Speaking at the tabling, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) MP, Thabang Pheko, said ever since the constitution was written it has always been violated by not establishing the independent Auditor General’s Office as provided for in section 117.

“Its independence will contribute to the development of the nation,” Pheko said.

Finance Minister ’Mamphono Khaketla told the parliament that the Bill will give the Auditor General administrative autonomy just like a “judge in the court of law where there is nobody interfering with his judgments but the judiciary is accountable to the government because it gets funds from the parliament”.

“In the same way the office of the Auditor General will still be allocated funds by this parliament but its operations, the audits, will not be dictated by any office of the government,” Khaketla said.

She also said the good thing about this Bill is that it gives the Auditor General powers to recruit her own staff instead of them being hired by the Public Service Commission as is done currently.

Pheko also raised another concern that the Auditor General will still be appointed by the King with the advice of the Prime Minister.

He recalled that one senior government officer who is protected by the law and who is appointed by the King at the advice of the Prime Minister was manhandled by the police to force his ouster when the Prime Minister of the day did not like him.

Khaketla assured the MPs that the Auditor General will be powerful to an extent that she will be able to audit even the Prime Minister himself, fully supported by the law.

“Even this very House the Auditor General will have powers to audit,” Khaketla said.

“The Auditor General can audit accounts of officers of the government. The Prime Minister is not immune to this…the Auditor General can also audit accounts of the courts of law, commissions that are set up by the courts or what we call statutory bodies,” she said.

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