A robust civil society must fight corruption

A robust civil society must fight corruption

Three weeks ago, the Public Accounts Committee unearthed shocking evidence on the M3.6 million payment approved by Cabinet.
In 2015 Eat More Catering Services was awarded a one year contract to feed 100 students at Coop College, but Ha Rona disputed the results and took the matter to court claiming it won the tender.

Ha Rona refused to leave the Coop College kitchen and provided catering services to the students for two weeks. Eat More Catering Services served the institution from their company kitchen and offered catering services (breakfast, lunch and dinner) for the whole year.
It is important to note that Ha Rona is owned by Thuso Litjobo’s second wife, otherwise they wouldn’t have had a chance in hell to make such harrowing claims.
The company wrote a letter to the Minister of Small Business claiming they worked for a year without payment and also claiming for the losses of revenue they experienced during this time.
On the 14th June 2018, the cabinet of Lesotho resolved to pay M3.6 million. Ha Rona was illegally paid for the job it never performed. It makes me wonder why Ha Rona is only claiming for payment in this regime.

Why does cabinet approve such corrupt practices?
Cabinet resolved to pay on the recommendation of the Attorney General. It took two days for the payment to be effected yet the Minister of Finance claims there is no money.
Cabinet approved this payment yet it had lots of discrepancies: firstly, Ha Rona claimed payment for the whole year. Secondly Ha Rona claimed payment on days the students were on break. Thirdly, Ha Rona claimed payment on weekends when the day scholars (students who have not opted for hostel facility at Coop College) were not present. Lastly, Ha Rona claimed payment of 31 days in February.

There are many companies that have delivered services and goods to the government of Lesotho yet they have not been paid yet. Now we know it takes two days to be paid once cabinet has decided on the matter.
Be patient suppliers, maybe your problems of delayed payment will be handled in the next cabinet sitting. If cabinet could decide to pay Ha Rona M3.6 million for a two weeks illegally performed job, what more for all legally, deserving companies that delivered their goods and services?
Police officers have been fighting for a six percent salary adjustment since 2015. They were arbitrarily denied the increment.
The Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA) took the matter to court and the issue now has a court order that states clearly that police officers should be given the six percent in tandem with its arrears.

LEPOSA should write to the Cabinet of Ministers; that’s their only salvation, their payment will be processed within two days.
Teachers stop wasting your time, please write to the cabinet of ministers all your outstanding payments will be effected in two days.
On the 23rd of July 2018 the Small Business Principal Secretary Lerata Pekane signed for the payment voucher. Pekane claims to be a change agent.
Instances of incompetent Ministers and Principal Secretaries, who owe gratitude before they even start, is another phenomenon that has led to the collapse of the system of accountability within government.

Our Cabinet has forgotten that corruption is not just an ethical misdemeanour, it’s a violation of the law. This corrupt payment is going to reduce expenditure on education and health.
The corrupt politicians choose to make payments to Ha Rona Company not on the basis of a company deserving payment because it had delivered services, but on the opportunity for bribes and kickbacks the projects present.

The corrupt payment shall hurt Basotho, especially the poor indirectly because corruption is an impediment to economic growth, reinforces inequality, distorts public expenditure allocation and is an obstacle to poverty alleviation.

It will interest you to know that Coop College has been closed down following these unfortunate corrupt payments. Basotho were denied an opportunity to get educated in this institution.
When corruption misdirects the assignment of disability benefits, delays eligibility for pensions, closes down an institution of higher learning, weakens the provision of basic public services, it is usually the poor who suffer the most.

The Prevention of Corruption and Economic Offences Act No. 5 of 1999 provides for the establishment of a Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEO); to make provision for the prevention of corruption and confer power on the Directorate to investigate suspected cases of corruption and economic crime and matters connected.
The DCEO was established as a dedicated anti-corruption agency, highly recommended and proposed by the international community. The international community persistently recommended the creation of such an agency as an important piece of Lesotho’s institutional architecture and its large-scale anti-corruption strategies.

But do such legal instruments really do the trick? Do they lead to a reduction in corruption? I am afraid our DCEO has become a political tool used by government elites to suppress the opposition. The DCEO has become an institution that cleans the politically connected suspects of corruption.
My solution is simple. We need to build robust civil society organisations that can seek private prosecution on these cases that have been overruled by the DCEO and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

BY: Ramahooana matlosa

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