Take corrective measures

Take corrective measures

OUR lead story last week painted a bleak picture of the massive rot at the High Court which has the potential to tarnish the image of the judiciary in Lesotho.
The issue here is the manner in which the High Court leased an exorbitantly priced house for Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara.

The house, costing a massive M27 000 a month, way above her M4 000 monthly allowance, is owned by another High Court judge, Justice Teboho Moiloa.
The fact the house belongs to another judge has raised serious questions about issues of transparency and conflict of interest.

An explosive draft internal audit report done by the Ministry of Finance reveals that proper procurement procedures were not followed when the High Court leased the house.
The auditors expressed concerns about what they called the “uneconomical use of public funds”.

The report recommends that the lease should be reviewed “for better decision-making on the economical utilisation of financial resources”.
While we would not want to suggest that the two judges went out of their way to flout procurement regulations, we find it astounding that the High Court endorsed the housing deal.
Even after knowing the house belonged to a fellow judge, the High Court failed to initiate any corrective measures.
They still went ahead with the deal.

That is staggering. Yet, we have no doubt that the two judges represent some of the best legal brains in Lesotho and that they have contributed immensely to the development of the justice sector in the country.

But all that good work could be undone. Their sterling record and squeaky clean reputation as judges now stands at the risk of being tarnished.
In our opinion, it is not too late to take immediate corrective measures to reverse the institutional damage in the eyes of the public.
In fact the audit team recommends that the Chief Accounting Officer must “enforce compliance” and take any other corrective measures in accordance with Public Service Regulations”.
We agree.

This is critical to salvage the reputation of the judiciary.
Judges carry an onerous task in dispensing justice and must therefore be squeaky clean.
Any suggestion of impropriety would seriously soil their reputation.

That is why it is critical for the High Court and the two judges to sort this matter pronto.
The issue of perception is quite critical for the judiciary.

Judges must be irreproachable. It would be sad were the public to impute wrong motives on the part of judges.
We therefore agree with the audit report that immediate corrective measures must be taken to salvage and protect the High Court’s reputation.
That should be enough to deal with this matter.

We do not think this matter should be escalated any further.
Any talk of impeachment is therefore both premature and misdirected.
We believe this could simply have been an administrative oversight.

Perhaps the biggest lesson from this episode is that judges must not unnecessarily open themselves up to attack from hawks in the political arena.
They must apply their minds to ensure their behaviour is always above board.

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