Govt should manage public finances well
WE are worried by the latest claims by alliance of Democrats (ad) leader monyane moleleki that the government paid a staggering a staggering m600 million in a single financial year to Bidvest Bank Limited and recently followed this up with another m73 million in penalties after prematurely and unilaterally terminating the controversial fleet service contract it signed with the south african company last year.
if anything, the allegations merely reinforce our long-held view that government should learn to properly manage public funds.
last Wednesday, Finance minister Tlohang sekhamane announced the cancellation of the controversial vehicle fleet services contract with effect from yesterday and he admitted that Bidvest had milked the government of millions of maloti and the bills were spiraling to a point where it was difficult to pay them off.
However, mr sekhamane’s remarks were only a partial admission of culpability as the minister did not make full disclosure of how much the government owed or what it had already paid to Bidvest.
and so it was left to opposition leader mr moleleki to provide the public with a picture of what is involved in the termination of the deal.
as we report elsewhere in this edition, mr moleleki made the m73 million claim while addressing party supporters in Ha-marakabei in the Buth a-but he district this week. Disclosure of how public finances are expended and for what reasons is not only a moral imperative, it is a legal obligation. Yet with this government, information that must be disclosed to the public, as a matter of routine, to foster transparency is wrapped under a veil of secrecy. such behavior only heightens suspicions. mr moleleki is hardly the appropriate source of disclosures over the parasitic fleet tender. But since he was part of the system until very recently, we can take his word for it.
While some will query mr moleleki’s claims, in the absence of the government’s official figures, the essence of his argument is rooted in fact and reality for it is always the case that premature termination of binding contracts attracts monetary penalties. it is indeed a sad development and yet it is one that could have been avoided if government had chosen the transparent, efficient and cost-saving path afforded by observing the dictates of prudent public finance management.
Unless of course, there are selfish motives of selfenrichment, there is absolutely no reason why government officials must eschew transparency and due diligence before entering contracts that involve a massive outlay of scarce public resources.
But whatever the reasons, we need to move forward as a country and embark on a new path of following due process to not only conserve scare resources but to also engender public trust and confidence in government. Had it been just the Bidvest deal then one could say it was probably a rare oversight or act of omission. But there is clearly a trend of controversial and dubious deal making. a case in point is the deal with nikuv, an israeli company which was originally awarded a m300 million tender in 2012 to computerise the country’s border-control system and produce electronic passports birth and death certificates and national identity Documents (ids).
Just like the Bidvest deal, nikuv was awarded the lucrative contract without an open public tender. government was subsequently left with egg on its face in December 2016 when an israeli court convicted nikuv of bribing lesotho’s former Home affairs principal secretary (PS) Retšelisitsoe Khetsi to influence the awarding of the tender. The court fined Nikuv NIS 4.5 million (about M16.4 million) for bribing Mr Khetsi.
and this could have been avoided by following the due process of open public tender and also due diligence on the israeli company.
simple desktop internet research would show that nikuv has attracted controversy over its dealings with governments in other african countries including Zambia and Zimbabwe. The damage has been done but it is not too late for any incoming government after the June elections to start on a fresh slate and foster a culture of good governance and prudent administration of public funds.