Ministers declare assets

Ministers declare assets

MASERU-FOURTEEN long years.
That’s what it took for successive Prime Ministers and government officials to make a commitment to comply with a 2006 law that requires all public officials to declare their assets.

The 2006 Prevention of Corruption and Economic Offences Act requires that a public officer “shall be required to make a full declaration of all assets belonging to him or her prior to his or her assumption of office”.

The declaration “shall always be expected to remain commensurate to his or her overall earnings and interests, in accordance with a form to be prescribed by the Minister”.
The first declarations were supposed to be on June 15, 2007.
But nothing happened.

The new law, which was passed amid much fanfare, as an indication that Lesotho was committed to fighting corruption, slowly gathered dust as successive governments dithered over its implementation.

But on Monday, the new coalition government led by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro and his Cabinet gave fresh oomph to the “old” law when they became the first to declare their personal assets to the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO).

The declaration was a symbolic gesture that showed that Dr Majoro and his Cabinet were committed to walk the talk in fighting corruption.
Dr Majoro told the media that this was his government’s first step in the fight against corruption.

“I once promised that we would declare our assets as ministers (and) lead by example,” Dr Majoro said.
“I am proud that the plan has finally been executed and everyone who gets a salary from Basotho taxes must do the same.”
MPs, Principal Secretaries and civil servants will all be required to follow suit soon, Majoro said.

Ministers and all civil servants will be required to fill in forms which they will submit to the DCEO every year. The idea is to ensure that all new assets are registered and that all civil servants live within their means.

The DCEO Director General, Advocate Mahlomola Manyokole, said the Prime Minister had committed to ensuring that all ministers, MPs and civil servants all declare their assets.
“This will set an example,” he said.

He said the declaration was significant as they step up the fight against corruption on all fronts.
Advocate Manyokole said “all government (employees) must declare their assets in public”.

He said there was a reluctance from civil servants in the past to declare their assets adding the Prime Minister’s decision was a very good thing for Lesotho.

“He even declared first as an example (to all of us),” Advocate Manyokole said.
He said the initiative was the clearest indicator yet that there was now political commitment to root out corruption which has over the years been pulling down Lesotho’s economy.

Advocate Manyokole said Dr Majoro had stated boldly in his inaugural speech as premier that his government would fight corruption.
He said while every asset should be declared, they were most interested in keeping tabs with what happens in people’s bank accounts.

He said MPs and ministers and civil servants must fill in their bank details, the funds in the bank accounts and the vehicles and houses which they own.

Advocate Manyokole said the forms will provide them with a basis to check if a minister or civil servant is living beyond his means.
“We expect them to declare every year and show what they have and what they do not have anymore,” he said.

Advocate Manyokole said the majority of Cabinet ministers had complied with the new requirement to declare their assets.
thepost could not independently ascertain how many ministers had signed by Monday.

But Advocate Manyokole insisted that all ministers will sign the declaration.
He said the next step will be to approach Principal Secretaries who are to be followed by government officials adding the exercise should be completed by the end of the year.

The declaration of assets has for a long time been a thorny subject in the flesh of the government. Ministers and MPs have for a long time openly fought against the requirement.

For instance in December 2017, five months after the then coalition government led by Thomas Thabane took power, only 11 out of the 35 cabinet ministers filled forms at the DCEO to declare their assets and interests.

Thabane boldly declared that his government would do things differently.
But three years down the line, Thabane’s regime collapsed in spectacular fashion after the premier’s wife was accused of interfering in government operations.

Years earlier in 2003, the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) leader, Lekhetho Rakuoane, began a push for all senior government officials to declare their assets. He was largely ignored.
Rakuoane is now the Minister of Tourism in the new government led by Majoro.

In 2007 Rakuoane also tried to push for the implementation of the law but the then government led by the Lesotho Congress for Democracy dithered.
Since then Rakuoane had been complaining that nothing had been done to push MPs to declare their assets.

The new law will require the Prime Minister and all government ministers, senior government officials, as well as High Court judges and other judicial officers to declare their assets.

Nkheli Liphoto

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