THE government must enact laws that compel all corporates to channel a portion of their profits to corporate social initiatives (CSI), the Director of Planning in the Ministry of Social Development, Mankhatho Linko, has said.
Ms Linko said the money from the corporates will be used to bridge the huge social protection gap and enable her ministry to meet its huge obligations towards the betterment of the lives of key populations.
She further said the government should take a leaf from other countries where corporates channel part of their profits to CSI.
“In some countries, the corporate world contributes a percentage of their profits to CSI but in Lesotho we do not have that and companies donate out of their own volition,” Ms Linko said.
“It’s time the government came up with an organised way of ensuring that companies participate in CSI. There is lot that needs to be done and as a government we cannot do everything.
“We also appreciate the efforts of several companies that are doing a lot with some going to the extent of building houses for the vulnerable and taking children to school. Some are in CSI annually as part of their business models but some are just in it for publicity.
“So, there is a need for us to come up with a way of ensuring that all companies contribute so that we can know how much has been contributed by which organisation. Sometimes the vulnerability of children actually increases because certain organisations say they are doing something when more needs to be done.
“In this ministry we cater for the elderly, the disabled, the visually impaired and other key populations and we encourage the corporate world to ensure that their services reach such people. Last year we approached some banks and asked them to ensure that they have automated teller machines (ATMs) and even teller points that are accessible customers who are wheelchair bound.
“As a ministry, we should be able tell the corporate sector what we expect them to do for our key populations in terms of service provision,” Ms Linko said.
The Principal Secretary in the Ministry, Advocate ‘Mole Kumalo, said there have been challenges of lack of coordination between companies willing to make donations and the ministry where the donations fail to address the requirements of the beneficiaries.
“There is need for companies to communicate with the ministry. For example, one may want to provide wheelchairs only to find that the type of wheelchairs are unsuitable for the beneficiaries. So, it is vital for the companies that want to assist to have good working relations with the ministry,” Adv Kumalo said.
He said the most vulnerable were the disabled whose aids such as like artificial limbs were expensive.
“Daily we get calls from amputees who need prosthetic limbs and currently, there is only one company that supplies them in Lesotho. This means that there is no competition for this company so their prices are very high. We agreed with Ms Linko that we need equipment for the disabled and we have to source funds to buy that equipment. The world is now focusing on health and social protection in line with the Sustainable Development Goals agenda so we must take advantage of that and source out funds.
“Our message to the corporate world is short and clear: they must understand that the government is facing serious challenges when it comes to the welfare of the poor and vulnerable members of our communities. We need their assistance,” Adv Kumalo said.
Ms Linko weighed in and said: “Over and above the disabled people, we have vulnerable children who are left alone at home because they cannot afford to go to school hence we need serious interventions with respect to the welfare of children”.
“There is need for huge investment in terms of education, health and psycho-social support. There is also need for support for the elderly.”
She said while it is good that several corporates provided sanitary wear to vulnerable girls, there was also a need to broaden the scope of the assistance to cater for other needy groups.
“There is need to go beyond sanitary wear. There are other needs like soap and toiletries. Whenever we package hygienic kits, we ensure that we even include deodorants because when a student does not have them, they are shunned by others,” Ms Linko said.
Adv Kumalo also said it was important for corporates not to sideline male children as they are now often left out of assistance programmes. He said in winter it is also important to ensure that school children have shoes.
Ms Linko said the separation of social welfare from the Ministry of Health into a standalone ministry in 2012 was a clear testimony that more needed to be done to cater for key populations.
She said they had since established the Community Development Department in the ministry which would enable them to engage development partners to foster community development projects that will help vulnerable populations to be resilient during shocks.
“The initiatives will help them (vulnerable populations) to have food and self-sustenance through goods that they can sell at the markets. Our long term objective is that the vulnerable groups must have something to do and we need the corporate world to come on board in this initiative,” she said.
Ms Linko said any form of assistance will go as long way in alleviating poverty.
“Those who have not embarked on CSI yet should know that sponsoring one child’s school fees will go a long way in breaking the cycle of poverty in that particular family so they should come to us so that we can collaborate,” Ms Linko said.