Embassies not  audited for 14 years

Embassies not audited for 14 years

MASERU – A “tea or cleaning lady” handling the entire finances of a whole embassy, political appointments and plunder of funds.
Welcome to the rot at some of Lesotho’s foreign missions – never mind that these are key institutions funded by the public to sell the image of the country abroad, defend Lesotho’s interests and lure investment.
Unaudited for up to 14 years, Lesotho’s missions abroad need to be fixed urgently, according to Auditor General Lucy Liphafa, who revealed shocking details of how some missions were operating with impunity.

She was speaking at a workshop for ministerial financial directors and deputy principal secretaries last Friday.
Liphafa said due to inadequate resources, her office has been unable to adequately fulfill its mandate. She gave this as the reason why some foreign missions had gone for so long without their books being scrutinised.
“It is because of these inadequate resources that some of Lesotho’s 18 missions in 15 countries have not been audited for 14 years,” Liphafa said.
She did not identify the missions.

Assistant Auditor-General, ’Mafani Masoabi, later told thepost that audits at some missions were accidental to visits by the AG’s office.
Mafani said sometimes some missions get audited when the AG is attending a meeting in that particular country and decides to kill two birds with one stone.
“Otherwise the missions would likely not be audited,” Masoabi said.
“Auditing foreign missions is costly because it involves catering for auditors’ flights and per diems and because our budget is already minimal we are unable to audit all missions every year like we would like,” she said.

According to Masoabi, this is why the AG’s office is only able to audit one or two foreign missions per year.
“Even auditing the missions in South Africa is a hassle even when we have opted to travel by road,” Masoabi said.
She said in the year 2013/2014 Kuwait and South Africa were audited, while in 2014/2015 the Tokyo mission was audited.

Meanwhile, in 2015/2016 South Africa and New York missions were audited and in 2016/2017 Malaysia and Washington were also audited.
Masoabi said because foreign missions have realised that the Auditor General’s office has limited resources they run wild with public coffers.
“In some missions you find that a tea or cleaning lady is the one handling finances and because they have inadequate skills they are easily bent in every direction by their seniors,” Masoabi said.

Liphafa mentioned that previously financial directors in foreign missions were qualified individuals.
She said during those times “the Department of Treasury offered them training to ensure that when they get where they are going they know what to do”.
“But currently even a mere bank teller is a financial director,” Liphafa said.
The 2013/2014 report revealed plunder of public funds abuse in the Durban Consulate in South Africa where the

Consulate was said to have used more than M1 million for personal use and non-existing consulate activities.
“You can just imagine what happens in other missions far away where they know that it will not be easy to audit them,” Masoabi said.
“The lack of resources is a serious challenge. We are unable to do work as we would like to or as we are mandated,” Masoabi said.

There was a serious concern among participants about political influence on the public service, especially on the financial sphere.
The workshop participants indicated that political influence makes it difficult for them to perform their duties and emphasised a need to return to professionalism in the public sector.

Lemohang Rakotsoane

 

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