Anti-graft consultations kick off

MASERU — An international consultancy firm hired by government to help re-define Lesotho’s anti-corruption strategy started consultations with various groupings this week.

De Speville and Associates was engaged in February under the auspices of the Commonwealth Technical Assistance to provide expert advice on how to strengthen the institutional capacity of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO).

The anti-corruption unit was established in 2003 to fight graft in the government and other institutions, including private companies.

On Tuesday De Speville and Associates’ principal Betrand de Speville meet with editors and managers from different media organisations to update them on the firm’s operations and mandate from the Lesotho government.

They are part of about 4 000 political leaders, traditional leaders, public sector officials, business, civil society, professional bodies, and religious leaders to be consulted by the firm in the next two years.

De Speville said they will also reach out to local communities to get their views on how government can fight corruption in all its forms.

“Our main task is to embark on a mass mobilisation campaign to encourage people to get involved in the fight against corruption,” he said.

He added that government’s efforts to curb graft could only succeed if there is a buy-in from the public.

Lesotho was ranked a lowly 78 out of 178 countries under Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2010.

In Africa it ranked 10th.

Botswana was ranked the least corrupt country on the continent.

“This means there is need to do much more to curb corruption which has a negative effect on the country’s economic growth,” De Speville said.

He said it was important for the government to show ordinary people that it is serious about tackling corruption.

To do this, De Speville said, there is need to involve the public in the process.

Over the next two years De Speville and Associates, with technical assistance from the DCEO, will gather public opinion on how the DCEO’s operations can be improved.

The firm will then present its findings and recommendations to government.

“I’m hopeful that government will take up whatever recommendations are made by the public because so far there has been political commitment from government to seriously tackle corruption,” De Speville said.

It is imperative though that besides this willingness, treasury allocates adequate resources to enable the DCEO to operate effectively, De Speville added.

He said experience the world over had shown that for an anti-corruption body such as the DCEO to work effectively, government must allocate at least 0.5 percent of its recurrent budget each year.

“This has not been the case with Lesotho, which allocates way below this.”

“This compromises the unit’s effectiveness,” De Speville said

The DCEO’s director for public education and corruption prevention, Litelu Ramokhoro, said lack of adequate resources was hampering efforts to investigate corruption and to run education programmes throughout the country.

He said although they recruited more employees to run the DCEO’s education programmes last year not much has been achieved because many of the recruits have not yet been trained due to lack of funds.

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