Walk the talk

Walk the talk

PRIME Minister Moeketsi Majoro and his Cabinet gave fresh oomph to an “old law” when they declared their personal assets to the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) this week.

The declaration was in line with a 2006 law, the Prevention of Corruption and Economic Offences Act, which requires all public servants to declare their assets before they assume office.

Over the past 14 years since the passing of that landmark law, successive governments have dilly-dallied as they could not muster the necessary political will to implement the law.

The result was that the new law, which was one of the most brilliant pieces of legislation enacted during Pakalitha Mosisili’s long tenure, simply gathered dust within the corridors of the government.

Majoro, who assumed office two months ago, has dusted off the law as he embarks on a crusade against corruption which was one of his key promises when he took over power in May.

Monday’s declaration of assets sends the right message to Basotho that Majoro’s coalition government is deeply committed to rooting out corruption at all levels of government.

That is critical because for a very long time, successive governments since the time of Mosisili have dismally failed to demonstrate that they were committed to fighting corruption in all its forms.

The perception among Basotho has been that the government only pays lip service to the fight against corruption while turning a blind eye to the most mind-boggling theft of national resources.

And when it fights corruption the efforts are half-hearted and measly as it goes after the small fish while leaving the big fish swimming in the pond.
We are not surprised that the majority of Basotho also still think our Ministers and MPs use their positions as vehicles for wealth accumulation.
The declaration of assets will go a long way in restoring the public’s confidence in their own government. It could also serve as a buffer or deterrent against rampant pilferage of state resources.

In that sense the new law was long overdue.
However, we know that a mere declaration of assets will only work up to a certain point. It would be a sheer naivety on our part to assume that a mere declaration of what ministers and other senior government officials own will act as a magic bullet in stopping the theft of national resources.

Lesotho still has to look at other avenues to halt the pilferage. Key among these is strengthening our institutions that fight corruption.
We must strengthen the investigative capacity of the DCEO. That also applies to the Financial Intelligence Unit and other key investigation departments within the Lesotho police.

Our Commercial Court must also be empowered so that it functions at the right level. We need more judges to deal with commercial disputes which by their very nature involve serious cases of financial malfeasance.
While it is all well to sign declaration of assets in full public glare, it is what happens after that we are interested in.

The government must never think it was doing this exercise just so that it receives kudos from the public. This was no mere public relations exercise.

What the people want to see are real results on the ground in fighting corruption. They want to see a real crackdown on corruption.
Prime Minister Majoro and his government must therefore walk the talk.

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