Comply with donors’ demands

Comply with donors’ demands

IN March this year the European Union (EU) refused to release 26.85 million euros (M391 million) it had allocated to Lesotho for budgetary support.
At that time the EU said the Lesotho government had failed to adhere to the terms and conditions set in the agreement for the funding.
In other words the government had repeatedly failed to account and report on how it had used the money. And this was despite several reminders from the EU to comply.
Now EU ambassador to Lesotho, Dr Michael Doyle, says they are trying to help the government comply and “fix the issues”.
We find this unacceptable but hardly surprising. For years donors and development partners have complained about the government’s failure to account for their monies.
The sad truth is that we have taken donors’ help for granted.  Yet a huge chunk of our budget comes from grants and donations.
That we can lose such a huge amount of money over simple administrative issues like reporting and accounting is a serious indictment on the whole government. Anywhere else heads would have rolled.

If we cannot treat other people’s monies with care how then can we be expected to handle our own?
There is a sickening notion in government and Lesotho as a whole that donor funds are ours to spend as we wish.
That is why we see no problem with diverting such funds to non-essential issues.
What remains of the funds when the financial year is about to close is spent recklessly on unproductive workshops and travel.
When time comes to report back on progress and account for the money we endlessly complained about donors either being too hard on us or not understanding that Lesotho is “unique”.

The same attitude is prevalent in the NGO sector. We see the same cavalier attitude in the way government money is used.
The truth though is that more often than not we have been unfair to the donors. Time and again they have come to our rescue.
We have abused their benevolence for too long and the EU has just decided to draw the line. There is not a single government department that can claim that it has never received donor funds. That money has helped in building infrastructure, strengthening systems and funding social programmes.
That the EU now wants to help the government comply shows that it is committed to assisting the country.

Yet such handholding is unnecessary, especially for a country that has been dealing with donors for years and needs their help now more than ever before.
Part of the problem, we suspect, is that we are so fixated with politics that we forget to deal with issues that matter.
That is what could have happened with the EU’s budgetary support. We have neglected core government programmes because we are busy pursuing political gains.
Our plea to those in power is to remember that they are there to serve the people.  Their bickering should not affect government projects and relations with development partners.
Donors have now become stingy with their money. They are just more careful with who they give the money and more watchful about how it is spent.
The onus is on Lesotho to prove that it can still be trusted to toe the line when it comes to accountability.

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