PM’s office rubbishes ‘looting’ claims

PM’s office rubbishes ‘looting’ claims

MASERU-THE Prime Minister’s Office this week rejected charges by the Auditor General that it has blown M1.5 billion on salaries and allowances for the National Covid-19 Secretariat (Nacosec) staff.

Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro’s spokesman, Mosito Moqhekoana, told a press conference yesterday that the M1.5 billion “was just a proposal that was never even taken to Parliament for allocation”.
The Auditor General’s report which was leaked to a local newspaper showed that the budget was initially M698 million but by August 2020 it had ballooned to a staggering M1.5 billion.

The Auditor General, Monica Besetsa, is reported to have found that the money was spent on salaries and allowances for Nacosec staff.
She also allegedly found that Nacosec duplicated functions of government ministries in that it created positions that already existed in government.
The report was for June to August last year and was allegedly presented to the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Kemiso Mosenene.

Refuting the allegations, Moqhekoana said the budget that was passed was of M698 million and was later granted and blessed by Parliament.
He said the Ministry of Finance has so far given the Nacosec M403.5 million.
“The money was released by Finance to the DMA (Disaster Management Authority) for the Nacosec to access it,” Moqhekoana said.

According to him, they have used M341.8 million up to December, adding that the M698 million was budgeted to end by the end of this year.
Moqhekoana said it is not true that they have used M1.5 billion so far.
“The Prime Minister’s Office saw it important to clarify this before it causes confusion,” he said.

He also said out of the M403.5 that was granted they used about M341.8 million to pay essentials like quarantine facilities while petrol and phones are support activities.
He said altogether they have used 86 percent of the budget on essentials to help Covid-19 patients, adding that the temporary and permanent health workers were also paid under the same budget.

He said 14 percent of the budget is left to pay other expenses like printing, petrol and phones amongst others.
Moqhekoana said the DMA Act orders the Prime Minister to form a task team of ministers immediately after declaring a disaster, for them to develop a structure to combat such a disaster.

He said the Nacosec operates under the DMA Act “therefore people should not confuse it as it is lawful and working towards achieving its goals”.
He said the M1.5 billion “was just a proposal that was never taken anywhere even to Parliament”.
Speaking at the same conference, the Principal Secretary for Cabinet, Kabelo Lehora, said they “do not oppose the Auditor General’s report but the issue of M1.5 billion is not truthful”.

Lehora said 86 percent of the budget worked on the key problems while the remaining 14 percent worked on the operations that supported the fight against the pandemic.
“We had labs, quarantine centres and other expenses on the frontline,” Lehora said.

Lehora added that the Nacosec was formed under the DMA “therefore it is a baby of the DMA and cannot use government funds without the knowledge and approval of the DMA”.
“We appeal to the nation to understand the Nacosec and how it works,” he said.

He added that the DMA office is capacitated with experts who know very well how to do their job because they are competent.
He said the Nacosec does not use government funds but gets funds from the DMA.
Lehora said they will soon prepare a clear written financial report on the usage of funds by the Nacosec.

He urged Basotho to focus more on helping the government to combat the pandemic “rather than going all out with negative allegations that will not help during this time”.

Nkheli Liphoto

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