Call for united front against cor­rup­tion

Lesotho Times - - News - Mot­samai Mokotjo

LE­SOTHO com­mem­o­rated In­ter­na­tional Anti-cor­rup­tion Day on Mon­day with a sym­po­sium in which par­tic­i­pants called for more con­certed ef­forts to fight graft.

In­ter­na­tional Anti-cor­rup­tion Day has been ob­served an­nu­ally on 9 De­cem­ber since 2003 to raise peo­ple’s aware­ness about the costs of cor­rup­tion and to find ways to com­bat and pre­vent it. The sym­po­sium was held at Avani Maseru ho­tel un­der the theme, “Break the Cor­rup­tion Chain”.

Among those in at­ten­dance was Jus­tice and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices min­istry Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary Ma­jakathata Mokoena, Le­sotho Rev­enue Au­thor­ity (LRA) Act­ing Com­mis­sioner-gen­eral Reale­boha Mathaba, Di­rec­torate on Cor­rup­tion and Eco­nomic Of­fences (DCEO) Di­rec­tor-gen­eral Borotho Mat­soso, Le­sotho De­fence Force com­man­der Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Tlali Kamoli and Deputy Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Keketso Mon­a­heng as well as civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions and other stake­hold­ers.

Ad­dress­ing the del­e­gates, Le­sotho Coun­cil of Non-gov­ern­men­tal Or­gan­i­sa­tions (LCN) Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor, Se­abata Mot­samai, said there was need for the en­act­ment of more laws to stem cor­rup­tion.

“The time is now for all of us to act. Cor­rup­tion is im­moral and knows no bound­aries whether in civil so­ci­ety, the pub­lic or pri­vate sec­tors,” said Mot­samai.

“For in­stance, govern­ment’s guar­an­ty­ing of Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment’s (MPS) M500 000 in­ter­est­free loans, com­pro­mises the pub­lic’s per­cep­tion of leg­is­la­tors and ren­ders their role in fight­ing cor­rup­tion in­ef­fec­tive.”

He said a per­for­mance au­dit car­ried out by Au­di­tor-gen­eral ( AG) Lucy Liphafa for the 2013/14 fi­nan­cial year made for sad read­ing and “showed govern­ment’s weak ca­pac­ity in fight­ing cor­rup­tion”.

Ac­cord­ing to the au­dit, un­de­serv­ing ben­e­fi­cia­ries were fraud­u­lently ac­cess­ing funds meant for the el­derly, with govern­ment los­ing M90 300 at the Se­monkong pay-point alone through the pay­ment of ghost pen­sion­ers. The re­port also un­earthed ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in ButhaButhe and Thaba-tseka where M28 750 was paid to un­law­ful claimants through the names of de­ceased pen­sion­ers.

To nip cor­rup­tion in the bud, Mr Mot­samai sug­gested the en­act­ment of leg­is­la­tion pro­tect­ing whis­tle-blow­ers and in­creas­ing the ca­pac­ity of the DCEO to go af­ter per­pe­tra­tors.

“Ac­tions against cor­rup­tion should speak louder than mere words,” he said.

Ad­vo­cate Mathaba echoed the sen­ti­ment, say­ing the detri­men­tal ef­fects of cor­rup­tion were more pro­nounced in least de­vel­oped coun­tries such as Le­sotho.

“Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional de­scribes cor­rup­tion in coun­tries with a per­cep­tion in­dex score of less than 50 as en­demic. Le­sotho has con­sis­tently scored less that 50 in the per­cep­tion in­dex,” the LRA act­ing com­mis­sioner-gen­eral noted.

“There is em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence point­ing to­wards a di­rect cor­re­la­tion be­tween cor­rup­tion and eco­nomic per­for­mance. The higher the level of cor­rup­tion, the lesser the rate of eco­nomic growth.

“More­over, there is com­pelling ev­i­dence of a cor­re­la­tion be­tween cor­rup­tion and tax com­pli­ance. The higher the rate of cor­rup­tion there is, the lower the rate of tax com­pli­ance.”

In or­der to at­tain eco­nomic growth, Ad­vo­cate Mathaba said Le­sotho needed to put in place strate­gies to pre­vent cor­rup­tion and tax eva­sion.

“Since in­ves­ti­ga­tion is very ex­pen­sive, the em­pha­sis should be more on preven­tion so as to leave for in­ves­ti­ga­tions cases that es­cape the net of preven­tion,” he said.

“And it is only if we, as the pub­lic ser­vice, start by ad­mit­ting that we are af­flicted with the scourge of cor­rup­tion that we can start the jour­ney to­wards win­ning the war.

“On the other hand, the busi­ness sec­tor should ad­mit that it is not free of blame and then start pos­i­tive strides to pre­vent and com­bat cor­rup­tion.”

In a speech read on his be­half by Mr Mokoena, Jus­tice and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices Min­is­ter Moeketse Malebo said Le­sotho had been grap­pling with cor­rup­tion since in­de­pen­dence from colo­nial rule in 1965. “That our var­i­ous elec­tions have been as­so­ci­ated with elec­toral fraud, whether per­ceived or real, has played a ma­jor role in the political in­sta­bil­ity that has char­ac­terised our coun­try over the years,” he said.

“The sus­pen­sion of the Con­sti­tu­tion and sub­se­quent dec­la­ra­tion of a state of emer­gency fol­low­ing the 1970 elec­tions that lasted about 23 years, and the 1998 political tur­moil are a part of our his­tory as a coun­try that we wish not to re­peat un­der any cir­cum­stance. “What we de­sire, in­stead, is sta­ble, demo­cratic govern­ment char­ac­ter­ized by good gov­er­nance and whose key pil­lars in­clude trans­parency, ac­count­abil­ity and the rule of law, as well as be­ing free from cor­rup­tion.”

Mr Malebo said as part of its pri­or­ity pol­icy pro­gramme, the coali­tion govern­ment had com­mit­ted to re­form­ing the pub­lic ser­vice into a pro­fes­sional, in­de­pen­dent, ac­count­able and ef­fi­cient ser­vice.

“The govern­ment com­mits fur­ther to en­sur­ing that the mea­sures are put in place within 12 months for the law re­lat­ing to the dec­la­ra­tion of as­sets,” he said.

On his part, Lt Gen Kamoli said cor­rup­tion should be rooted out from so­ci­ety.

“We need to fight cor­rup­tion, and if we can­not fix this prob­lem, then we have a prob­lem. We have to bear in mind that we work for the pub­lic,” he said.

“Cor­rup­tion is evil, and more im­por­tantly, it is caused by those of us who are work­ing. If I know my job and my rights, I will not be co­erced into be­com­ing cor­rupt.”

There is em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence point­ing to­wards a di­rect cor­re­la­tion be­tween cor­rup­tion and eco­nomic per­for­mance. The higher the level of cor­rup­tion, the lesser the rate of eco­nomic growth.

SOME of the par­tic­i­pants in In­ter­na­tional Anti-cor­rup­tion Day com­mem­o­ra­tions held yes­ter­day take part in a fun­walk from Ha-‘ne­lese to Maseru Cen­tral Park.

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