Corruption is here to stay

Corruption is here to stay

The level of perceived corruption in Lesotho is unacceptably high. On the Transparency Corruption Index 2017, Lesotho ranks 74th.
This is bad. And it’s made worse by the fact that arrests and convictions for corruption related offences in this country are microscopic.
That’s the reason petty criminals overpopulate our prisons and not the kingpins of corruption i.e. politicians, civil servants and of course tenderpreneurs.
The Auditor General’s Report uncovered indisputable looting of public resources at an unprecedented scale — millions of Maloti systematically paid out for services not delivered, public funds transferred into personal accounts of individuals in contravention of regulations and rampant procurement fraud by politicians and government officials. These things prove we are a corrupt society.

Every Mosotho should be concerned by this. But we are not because our perception of corruption depends on whether we sit inside or outside this country’s patronage networks.
Viewing things from outside a patronage network, corruption in Lesotho is out of control. It requires urgent eradication.
But from a position inside a patronage network, there is no such thing as corruption. There are only opportunities for economic advancement.

To understand a bit better what I mean, go back a few months before the elections. Recall those who were screaming the loudest about corruption.
Picture them today. They seem to have lost their voices while at the same time discovering new pursuits and hobbies.
Can patronage networks really cause such metamorphosis in self-proclaimed corruption busters?
Yes and the reasons are not that hard to understand.
When ensconced inside the right patronage network, economic advancement or personal wealth accumulation becomes a real possibility. It ceases to be aspirational. So, being inside a patronage network is akin to arriving in heaven.
That’s the reason people do all they can to get there and to stay there.
A seat inside the tent guarantees access to the national kitty and all the goodies that go with it.
Lives are immediately transformed. In fact, you will not find anywhere in the world more inspiring testimonies of “from rags to riches” stories.
Deep down in our hearts, most of us believe leveraging corruption networks offers life transforming opportunities (economic advancement) that should not be squandered over intangibles like morality. Morality does not put food on the table.

If this were not true, we would not be seeing Ministers and senior government officials in THIS Government publicly fighting over tenders.
They do it because they understand that upholding higher moral values will not help them much in the long term.
They must gather enough food not just for today but for tomorrow as well.

If morality could put food on the table, a Senior Minister after being exposed to have received vast sums of money into his personal account from a foreign business man (known to have been looking to secure a mining licence at the time), would have immediately resigned when the news broke — to avoid damaging the good image of His Majesty’s government as he has now done. He didn’t.

Instead he insisted that the cash receipts were not bribery or corruption and that his relationship with this suspicious character be respected. No other explanation was deemed necessary.
There would also be no delays in the constitutional, political, security and administrative reforms process under THIS government.
This government would remain committed to urgently drive the reforms as they promised they would do before the elections.

It’s not happening because the reforms are meant to undo the current patronage-based system that is now serving them well.
Once removed, this system will result in good governance being assured and access to economic opportunities in future no longer being based on being in the right inner circles.
Politicians, especially those in government clearly have the most to lose.

So, they drag their feet fully aware that the reforms will bring order and the need to adhere to higher moral stands which don’t put food on the table.
If morality were not now a secondary consideration, this, the People’s Government, would not contemplate deferring corruption charges against the Former Deputy Prime Minister under any circumstance.

This government (a sworn enemy of corruption) would want to avoid sending the message that unlike other crimes, corruption is not that serious.
They would continue being unequivocal that those alleged to be corrupt should be held to account no differently from those alleged to have murdered and plotted treason.
Let me bring this to a close.

Corruption is alive and well in Lesotho. Both the Transparency Corruption Index and the Auditor General’s Report confirm this.
Our generation is showing that maintaining high moral standards and achieving economic freedom are mutually exclusive and that given a choice between the two, morality should be dispensed with. That’s the reason the eradication of corruption in Lesotho will not be won by our generation.

By: Poloko Khabele

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