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M65 million govt debt cripples LEC

Bereng Mpaki

THE Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) is owed an estimated M65 million in unpaid bills by different government ministries for the current financial year.

The organisation says this has negatively affected the company’s cash flow.

This was said by the LEC board chairman Refiloe Matekane during the introduction of the recently appointed Minister of Energy and Meteorology Professor Ntoi Rapapa to the LEC staff this week.

Mr Matekane said the company’s situation has also been exacerbated by the fact that the fact that they are running on a lean budget after their application for tariff increases was blocked.

“The government’s defaulting negatively affects the company’s cash flow,” Mr Matekane said.

“This is compounded by the fact that this year we have been barred from increasing tariffs meaning that we are running on a lean budget. This means that our revenue collection must be flawless for us to maintain our operations. We are also facing an aging infrastructure.”

For his part, Mr Rapapa said it was embarrassing for the government to be owing its own agency while it focusses on paying external debtors.

“It is an embarrassing situation where government owes its own company while its settles external debts.”

He said the LEC needed progressive solutions such as managing its clients’ debt levels in relation to their ability to pay their bills to mitigate perpetual defaulting.

The principal secretary in the Energy ministry Khomoatsana Tau said the LEC must adopt a harsher stance on the government’s defaulting since every ministry had an annual allocation towards paying its power expenses.

“I therefore encourage the LEC to take stern measures against the government for it to pay. I am told the government of eSwatini never owes money to its power utility.”

He however, said that the LEC may need to communicate with government authorities before taking any corrective measures.

The acting managing director of LEC, Leketekete Ketso, said the LEC was reluctant to take drastic measures like cutting off the defaulting ministries for fear of reprisals from higher authorities.

“I have no problem with cutting off power from defaulting ministries. In fact, given the encouragement from the PS’s words, I could do it tomorrow.

“However, the LEC has been reluctant to cut off ministries for fear of the possible backlash from higher government authorities,” Dr Ketso said.

LEC employee, Kennedy Mpota said there was a lot of lawlessness within the company, which is impacting negatively on its ability to generate revenue.

“There is no order within this organisation from the top to lower management. No nobody is taken to task for their actions,” Mr Mpota said.

Another employee Tankiso Thakabanna said an aggressive approach in a bid to recoup money from defaulters leads to loss revenue.

“We approach clients without aggressive force when they have defaulted. This is because we work towards recouping the lost revenue. However, removing meters and confiscating them from the client means we can no longer hope to get back any lost revenue,” Mr Thakabanna said.

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