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Project to ease cross-border trade

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MASERU – THE Ministry of Trade yesterday launched the Lesotho National Single Window (LNSW) Project which seeks to cut the administrative cost of trading across borders. The LNSW is meant to boost trade.

The launch was conducted in collaboration with the Private Sector Competitiveness and Economic Diversification Project (PSCEDP) through the support of the World Bank and Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA).

The Commissioner General of the LRA, Thabo Khasipe, said they view this initiative as a vehicle to help them realise their revenue mandate and contribute to Domestic Resource Mobilisation.

He said they foresee a multi-fold improvement in clients’ satisfaction levels as they utilise the Single Window as a tool of trust in the course of tax and cross-border trade service.

“The LNSW will enable the agencies connected to share certificates, licences, and permit information electronically and that is a good start towards collaboration,” Khasipe said.

“The combination of electronic single window and Coordinated Border Management will go a long way in improving the trade facilitation ranking of the country for the benefit of trade and the economy,” he said.

Minister of Trade, Dr Thabiso Molapo, said the birth of the LNSW presents a window of opportunity to be harnessed by both government and the private sector.

He said this will improve real-time and cost-effective sharing of information between traders and government agencies, and amongst government agencies.

“This will also provide predictability and transparency on all the regulatory requirements,” Dr Molapo said.

“This initiative came at an opportune time after Lesotho ratified the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement,” he said.

He said this environment will enable them to expedite the movement and clearance of goods at the borders. He said it will also provide them with real-time data to monitor trade and trade trends for better policy interventions.

“An opportunity has been presented before you take advantage of this initiative for the betterment of your businesses and economic growth of the country,” he said.

The Project Manager of PSCEDP, Chaba Mokuku, said the objective of this project is to support the private sector development in Lesotho by improving the business environment by reducing the time, cost, and processes of doing business.

“The project is aimed at diversifying sources of growth with a focus on priority sectors,” Mokuku said.

He mentioned that there were numerous initiatives introduced to improve the business environment in Lesotho which include company registration and business licensing system at the OBFC.

“Today we are launching the LNSW which is aimed at reducing the administrative costs of trading across borders,” he said.

The Minister of Agriculture, Keketso Sello, said agriculture remains a critical sector for food security and employment creation in our country. However, its contribution has declined over time. He said this electronic platform will facilitate smooth and speedy processing of documents required for export and import.

“We need the system which will improve our effectiveness and efficiency to import and export our products,” Sello said.

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LAA wins another international award

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MASERU – THE Land Administration Authority (LAA) has scooped yet another international award from the European Society for Quality Research (ESQR).

The award was presented to the LAA at a function held in Barcelona, Spain, last month.

The award was for best outstanding business results, best practices, quality awareness and achievement by companies in the regional and global markets.

This is the second time that the LAA has received an international award.

Last year the LAA was honoured with an international award on technology.

The LAA Director General, ’Mataeli Makhele-Sekhantšo, said the LAA was established as an autonomous government body by the Land Administration Authority Act.

She said the objective was to modernise and improve land administration services and to reduce land transaction costs.

“The ESQR awards recognise organisations’ distinctive performance improvement, organisational excellence, customer focus and encourage them to share their best practice, experiences and knowledge with other organisations,” Makhele-Sekhantšo said.

“The recognition is independent assurance for organisations stakeholder and customers and it motivates the organisation employees to strive for sustainable excellence,” she said.

The Board Chairman, Ratšele Ratšele, congratulated the staff of LAA for their hard work.

However, he said as much as the organisation has improved, “there are still some challenges which need to be addressed by the government”.

“The organisation still seeks to extend the issue of licenses in all the places across the country,” Ratšele said.

“The act that regulates estate agents still need to be strengthened,” he said.

He said sectional title deals which distinguish the size of land to be registered still need to be reviewed to allow people who can afford to buy small pieces of land.

Local Government Deputy Minister ’Mathato Phafoli said the government is proud of this organisation since “it fulfills the mandate of the local government for administering the lease holding”.
Phafoli said the administration for the lease is not only crucial for regulating land, but also to boost the economy of the country.

“Land is the crucial treasure which needs to be registered with the LAA so that it can benefit even the coming generations,” Phafoli said.

She said one of the government’s strategic plans is to improve food security.

However, agricultural land is being utilised for industrial purposes, business premises and for household purposes.

“We are worried as to how Basotho will in the coming years acquire food,” she said.

She said immediate action must be taken because Lesotho could fail to grow food for its people.

Phafoli said the government is more concerned about agricultural land which is being utilised for industrial purposes instead of food production.

She said this exposes the country to high risk of food security failure.

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ETL flies students to USA

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MASERU – TWO Basotho students are off to the United States, thanks to Econet Telecom Lesotho’s HigherLife Foundation.

A farewell ceremony for the two was held in Maseru on Tuesday.

HigherLife Foundation is a social impact organisation that invests in human capital. It was formed by Econet founder Strive Masiyiwa and his wife, Tsitsi, in 1996.

The Public Relations Officer of Econet Telecom Lesotho, Puleng Litabe, said each year they reserve two percent of their budget for the foundation.

She said they have so far sponsored 524 students ever since the foundation was established in Lesotho in 2011.

“These two students will add up to 18 students who studied in America through the assistance of the HigherLife Foundation since its establishment.”

Litabe said of the over 18 students they have sponsored to study in America, five of them are now working in Lesotho while seven of them are working in the US.

She said one student is working in Canada and three students are in their Doctor of Philosophy studies.

The Econet Chief Executive, Dennis Plaatjies, said HigherLife Foundation sponsored the two students since their high school days at Soofia International School in Leribe.

He said after completing their Lesotho General Certificate of Secondary Education (LGCSE), the foundation took them to Waterford University in Eswatini.

He said the foundation has several programmes with education as the major priority.

He said they assist Grade A students who are vulnerable.

One of the students, Nthati Lehloenya, will be studying at the University of Oklahoma. She said he was raised by a single parent.

Lehloenya said life was not a walk in the park due to financial constraints her family had.

She was lucky to be introduced to the HigherLife Foundation which ultimately changed her life.

“The foundation did not only change our livelihood but it has also impacted our communities,” Lehloenya said.

She explained that while at school she won a M16 000 fund for a community project she was working on at work.

The other student is Mahali Mabesa.

The one will be studying engineering while the other will be studying mathematics and physics.

A parent to one of the scholars, ’Mamahali Mabesa, said in 2012 the financial problems forced her to transfer her daughter from the National University of Lesotho International School (NULIS) to Soofia International School.

She said it was still hard to support her daughter’s education. The teachers realised that her daughter was working so hard and deserved financial assistance.

“They said they could not let this talent go to waste because of our struggle hence they would try all means so that she could be assisted,” Mabesa said.

Meanwhile, Econet Telecom Lesotho yesterday in partnership with Gem Institute Lesotho launched a tree planting campaign for 1 408 apples and peach trees at 16 schools in the lowlands and highlands.

The Founder of Gem Institute, Mpho Letima, said one of their mandates is to encourage the youth to venture into entrepreneurship, technology and agriculture.

She said they have partnered with the school ever since 2016.

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LRA’s modernisation project extended to October

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MASERU – A four-year project to modernise the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA)’s system which was supposed to have ended in June has been extended to October. The Lesotho Tax Modernisation Project is designed to address weaknesses and target areas for improvement that are linked to the main causes of weak tax administration in Lesotho.

It focuses on improving efficiency and service delivery, increasing Value Added Tax (VAT) compliance, and broadening the tax base. It is also meant to support the LRA to consolidate and deepen reform by focusing on redesigning and upgrading business processes.

It is also meant to develop an enabling legal and institutional framework, introduce modern information and communication technology to increase tax compliance and efficiency in tax administration. It also promotes peer learning and experience sharing with similar national revenue authorities in the region.

The purpose is to strengthen the government’s capacity to raise domestic revenue and provide fiscal space for priority public expenditures including counterpart funding for ongoing operations. The LRA said the project is at 90 percent towards completion.

Speaking at a media briefing in Maseru on Tuesday, the Project Manager, Mokhethi Mabeea, said the project began in July 2018 and it was supposed to end in June this year. They have extended the time to October 2022 because implementation it took longer than expected.

The project, he said, was designed to enhance their services and modernise old systems. Mabeea said they were working on a different scope which includes E-taxation. The E-filing was developed for Value Added Tax (VAT) and Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) and deployed for piloting.

“We believe in October it will be up and running,” Mabeea said.

He said E-payment was also developed and under testing while E-registration is under testing development. Mabea said there is the Business Intelligence and Data Warehouse. He said the Business Intelligence was strategically developed and they are still in the process with the strategy which will assist in the implementation stage.

He said Operational Reports and Dashboards were developed and in use. He further said the Data Governance Framework was also completed and it is being operationalised. Mabea said an E-invoicing Solution was established late hence it will be completed around March 2023.

He said they also realised that the staff needed to be equipped with training as technology changes. They included amongst others the Block Chain Technology, special sectors in the financial sector and telecommunications sector, as well as business processes management.

Mabeea said in the Tax Administration Bill that was sent to parliament before it was dissolved two weeks ago. The Income Tax Bill was also sent to parliament while the VAT Amendment Bill has already been considered by both Houses.

Mabeea said that in the category of Small Business Tax Enhancement, they are seeking to treat small and medium entrepreneurs differently in terms of registration and filing of tax. The registration, filing and payment processes have been re-engineered. He said the configuration of the Core Tax Management System is in progress.

He said they are still calling upon all Basotho who are employed to file their returns. He said everyone paying tax should update their registration information. The Digital Service Manager, ’Makhothatso Khanare, spoke of an online rating tool which is still in progress.

She said they had introduced a tool management system in some of their offices to improve the quality of services they offer. She said they had so far achieved a 91 percent satisfaction level.

Khanere said however, they realised that since most of their services are conducted online, the level of satisfaction was not traceable. She said they expanded their rating tool digitally and a new product will be launched next month. She said this will allow all their clients who visit their offices and use the digital services raise their concerns and opinions.

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