Finance minister Leketekete Ketso yesterday unveiled a payment plan aimed at ensuring government pays service-providers within 20 days of presenting their invoices.
Dr Ketso revealed the strategy at a workshop his ministry held in Maseru in conjunction with the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) and relevant business communities.
According to the minister, the 20-day limit seeks to ensure those who do business with government do not go bankrupt due to delayed payments.
“We all know that the public sector cannot achieve its objectives of promoting economic growth, and increasing the quality of health and education, to mention but a few, without the critical support of the private sector.
“It is therefore, unfortunate that most of the time, they have to go for months without their monies being processed by the government.
“It is my conviction that if they were timeously paid, they would plough back into the economy and create more employment, thereby alleviating the suffering of our people,” Dr Ketso said.
Dr Ketso added he had since realised the late payment was due to both technological challenges and uncommitted staff.
“I tried to see where the problem was, and in one instance, I was told that the Integrated Financial Management Systems (IFMIS) system was down, while in another instance, the problem was due to conmen who had tendered for a particular service without following proper procurement regulations.
“Last week, I had an opportunity to trace two bids of M3.5 million and M7 million and both had been awarded but without logical reasons for a waiver in place.
“Regardless of the absence of qualified reasons that would justify the emergency period they had supplied under, they were still pushing for the transaction to go through.
“However, I did not want to be involved in the issue and told them that I did not want to go to jail on their behalf.”
On his part, the Accountant General, Samson Rankoe Mphaka, told the workshop that there was need for ministries to hold workshops for those in charge of procurement-related issues such as principal secretaries, who are mostly employed due to political affiliation and not educational qualifications.
“Sometimes, people who occupy these positions do not possess enough knowledge regarding the laws of enforcement, which is why some tenders end up being recalled at the highest level.
“It is also unfortunate to note that there is another set of people within either treasury or line ministries, who delay processes deliberately,” he said.
Meanwhile, CBL representative, Fusi Morokole said the bank had already embarked on a reform programme called MIACH, which would see cheques being processed in a single day.
“With MIACH, the system of cheque-clearance and settlement between banks is based on a captured image and Magnetic Link Character Recognition (MICR) code line data of the cheque without the exchange of the physical instruments,” he said.