IEC warns over party agents
POLITICAL parties that have failed to pay their agents during the 28 February 2015 general elections are putting the next elections, scheduled for 2020, in jeopardy since they would be “wary to work for nothing”.
This was said by Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Deputy Director of Elections Mphasa Mokhochane on Tuesday during a meeting convened by the portfolio committee on Law and Public Safety in Maseru to probe the causes for the delays in paying private companies for services rendered.
Mr Mokhochane said it was worrying that some political parties had opted not to pay their agents despite being provided with the funds to do so by the electoral body.
“It is going to be very difficult to manage the 2020 elections if party agents are not paid,” he said.
“If truth be told, we gave the parties money.”
Mr Mokhochane said in instances where there were two party agents at a polling station, they would share M300, yet when there was one he or she would be paid the whole M300.
“We wrote to party secretary generals asking them how many party agents they had paid. Only four parties had reconciled their payments,” he said.
The IEC Deputy Director of Elections said “big parties”, whose names he refused to divulge, were lagging behind in payments.
He said some of the defaulting parties had accused the IEC of not giving them enough money to pay their agents despite not reconciling their disbursements.
“We met party delegates to hear their problems and they said the IEC made mistakes in terms of payments. They demanded more money even though they had not reconciled what we had given them,” Mr Mokhochane said.
He said the IEC could not just dish out money willy-nilly since the commission’s books were periodically audited.
Mr Mokhochane said the first monetary batch was released after the elections, adding that they were now awaiting for the parties to reconcile their disbursements.
A member of the portfolio committee and Thaba-moea constituency MP, Tjoetsane Seoka, asked Mr Mokhachane whether there was a standard amount paid to the party representatives, since “it is M300 for some and M3 000 for others”.
Mr Mokhochane, however, was evasive in his response, saying party agents were “paid by our offices in the districts”.
His response drew the ire of the portfolio committee’s chairperson, Lineo Molise-mabusela, who queried why agents had not been paid six months after the election.
“We end up taking money from our own pockets to pay agents. We want to know when they will be paid,” Ms Molise-mabusela said.
Matelile constituency MP Maimane Maphathe also quizzed Mr Mokhochane on the measures the IEC had taken to ensure the party agents were paid.
“Some independent candidates used the money for their personal devices. Why not invite the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences Director General Borotho Matsoso to probe this issue?”
In his response, Mr Mokhochane said the IEC had called for a meeting with political parties today to “discuss how best to approach the issue”.
“We are also going to the parties’ offices. We are now going to monitor payments to ensure reconciliations are done,” he said.
She asked the officials to explain the reasons for obligating businesses to resubmit their tax clearances before being paid.
DCEO Director General, Borotho Matsoso, responded saying the Treasury department required businesses to furnish them with tax clearances to facilitate payment.
“I also urge the portfolio committee to invite the Lesotho Revenue Authority and Treasury to such forums so that they can also explain the reasons for the bureaucracy that hampers the payment processes,” Advocate Matsoso said.
According to the report, the Ministry of Home Affairs owed suppliers M700 000, although officials from the ministry said they had already paid M400 000. The judiciary, which includes the Appeal Court, High Court, Magistrates’ Court among others owed over M600 000.
The Justice Human Rights and Correctional Services ministry, the report said, owed M1 million which was disputed by ministry officials who said they owed M130 000. The late payment of suppliers by government is a perennial problem cited by private suppliers in growing their businesses.