Pub­lic ser­vants to de­clare­dec as­sets

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Billy Ntaote

IN a sign that the govern­ment could be get­ting se­ri­ous on tack­ling cor­rup­tion and curb­ing mis­man­age­ment of pub­lic funds, all govern­ment min­is­ters, in­clud­ing the Prime Min­is­ter, Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment, prin­ci­pal sec­re­taries and other pub­lic of­fi­cers will now be re­quired to de­clare their as­sets while in of­fice and upon re­tire­ment.

The dec­la­ra­tions will also cover all hold­ers of statu­tory po­si­tions like the At­tor­ney-gen­eral, Po­lice Com­mis­sioner, Com­man­ders of Le­sotho De­fence Force, Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions, Om­buds­man and oth­ers.

Al­though the Preven­tion of Cor­rup­tion and Eco­nomic Of­fences Act of 1999 re­quired pub­lic of­fi­cers to de­clare as­sets, this had never hap­pened be­cause suc­ces­sive ad­min­is­tra­tions did not im­ple­ment the law by for­mu­lat­ing reg­u­la­tions re­quired to ef­fect it.

This has now been done by Jus­tice and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices Min­is­ter Moeketse Malebo, through le­gal no­tice No. 8 of 2016 which he tabled in Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day.

The Di­rec­torate on Cor­rup­tion and Eco­nomic Of­fences (DCEO) will serve as the cen­tral registry for all the as­sets de­clared by pub­lic of­fi­cials. The def­i­ni­tion of pub­lic of- fi­cers seems to be so broadly worded in the reg­u­la­tions that it will re­quire all civil ser­vants to de­clare their as­sets to the DCEO.

The as­sets dec­la­ra­tions by pub­lic of­fi­cers will also in­clude them dis­clos­ing any spe­cial gifts and of­fers they get while in of­fice.

The le­gal no­tice, pub­lished in a govern­ment gazette dated 5 Fe­bru­ary 2016, now gives ef­fect to the as­sets dec­la­ra­tion law. It will un­dergo fur­ther scru­tiny in both houses of par­lia­ment al­though it is al­ready op­er­a­tional.

Sec­tion 63 of the le­gal no­tice head­lined “Es­tab­lish­ment of a cen­tral registry for in­tegrity and de­clared as­sets” will re­quire the di­rec­tor­Gen­eral of the DCEO to des­ig­nate an of­fi­cer hold­ing a po­si­tion not below that of a Di­rec­tor or Deputy Di­rec­tor-gen­eral to serve as cus­to­dian of the records of de­clared as­sets by pub­lic of­fi­cers.

The of­fi­cers so des­ig­nated shall take a spe­cial oath be­fore as­sum­ing du­ties in the DCEO.

In­for­ma­tion con­tained in the Cen­tral Registry shall only be re­leased with the writ­ten au­thor­ity of the Di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the DCEO. It is nev­er­the­less un­clear to which classes of per­sons this in­for­ma­tion will be re­leased to and whether this will in­clude any in­ter­ested mem­ber of the pub­lic.

But un­der the new reg­u­la­tions, pub­lic of­fi­cials must in­di­cate the as­sets they own jointly with their spouses. They must also de­clare those as­sets owned by their chil­dren below 18-years who are not mar­ried. As­sets that should be de­clared in­clude those meant for pri­vate use and for com­mer­cial pur­poses. The list of as­sets in­cludes: “(a) Cash and de­posits in a bank or other fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion;

“(b) Trea­sury bills and other sim­i­lar in­vest­ments in se­cu­ri­ties of fixed value is­sues or guar­an­teed by the govern­ment or agen­cies of the govern­ment or any pri­vate in­sti­tu­tion;

“(c) In­ter­est of money de­posited in a bank, build­ing so­ci­ety or fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion;

“(d) Div­i­dend or other profit from stocks or shares held by a pub­lic of­fi­cial in any com­pany or other body cor­po­rate;

(e) In­ter­ests in busi­nesses that do not con­tract with govern­ment and do not own or con­trol pub­licly traded se­cu­ri­ties, other than in­ci­den­tally and whose stocks and shares are not traded pub­licly;

(f) Farms for pri­vate use or for com­mer­cial op­er­a­tion;

(g) Real es­tate such as build­ings and other prop­er­ties.”

The dec­la­ra­tion of in­ter­est forms must be filled ev­ery time a pub­lic of­fi­cial as­sumes of­fice, gets pro­moted, is de­moted, re­tires/re­tired, or is trans­ferred from one place to an­other to as­sume a dif­fer­ent re­spon­si­bil­ity.

Fail­ure to de­clare as­sets within the spec­i­fied pe­riod or sub­mis­sion of fal­si­fied in­for­ma­tion will con­sti­tute a crim­i­nal of­fence.

“Fail­ure to sub­mit the dec­la­ra­tion within the spec­i­fied pe­riod con­sti­tutes breach of Law in terms of the Preven­tion of Cor­rup­tion and Eco­nomic Of­fences Act No.5 of 1999 as amended,” the reg­u­la­tions state.

“It is a crim­i­nal of­fence for a pub­lic of­fi­cial to sub­mit a false dec­la­ra­tion or in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing his as­sets.”

The DCEO’S spokesper­son, ‘Matl­hokomelo Senoko, told the Le­sotho Times yes­ter­day that the reg­u­la­tions ap­plied to all pub­lic ser­vants re­gard­less of rank, adding that the le­gal no­tice was still sub­ject to any amend­ments by Par­lia­ment since it had just been tabled in the au­gust

house.

The le­gal no­tice is in line with the gov­ern­ing seven-party al­liance’s Coali­tion Agree­ment which was un­veiled by Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili in April 2015. Among the agree­ment’s pri­or­i­ties was to im­ple­ment leg­is­la­tion obli­gat­ing pub­lic ser­vants to de­clare their as­sets.

This leg­is­la­tion had not been ef­fected de­spite its im­por­tance in curb­ing cor­rup­tion seen as be­ing widely ram­pant in Le­sotho.

Part of the Coali­tion Agree­ment reads: “The Coali­tion Govern­ment is con­cerned that the law on the dec­la­ra­tion of as­sets and in­ter­ests has not been im­ple­mented.

“This mat­ter is an im­por­tant com­po­nent of trans­parency and good gov­er­nance. The Coali­tion Govern­ment will en­sure that mea­sures are in place within 12 months for the law re­lat­ing to the dec­la­ra­tion of as­sets to be com­plied with.”

The move by the govern­ment this week proves that it is ready to keep its word and im­ple­ment the law to curb graft. It nev­er­the­less re­mains to be seen whether or not pub­lic of­fi­cers will com­ply with the new law by declar­ing their as­sets or get­ting cen­sured if they fail to do so. It also re­mains to be seen whether ac­cess to this in­for­ma­tion should be eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble to en­able the pub­lic to un­der­stand the wealth sta­tus of pub­lic of­fi­cers.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lesotho

© PressReader. All rights reserved.