GOVERNMENT continues to lose millions of maloti due to its failure to implement a decentralisation policy that would empower community councils to collect revenue from mining companies operating in their jurisdictions.
This was revealed in an oversight meeting where the Maseru District Council presented its 2016/2017 financial year’s first and second quarters progress reports to the Portfolio Committee on the Prime Minister’s Office and Departments, Governance, Foreign Affairs and Information cluster.
The Portfolio Committee, chaired by Koro-Koro constituency legislator Refiloe Litjobo emphasised the need for community councils to be granted powers to collect revenue from all contractors who mine quarry and sand from mountains, hills and rivers in their jurisdictions.
The meeting was also attended by Local Government and Chieftainship Affairs Deputy Minister Kotiti Liholo, Deputy Principal Secretary Ntai Makoetje, the Maseru District Council Chairperson Matlaleng Hlalele, District Council Secretary Mamajara Lehloenya, councillors and a representative of Chief Thaabe Letsie.
Ms Hlalele said councils could not collect revenue as they lacked the legal right to do so in their own jurisdictions.
She said this had also weakened the councils’ ability to regulate and protect their own resources from being plundered by the companies.
“We do not have the legal rights to do anything in the councils. Sand from Qiloane is sought after by many contractors and is nearing depletion, but we have not collected any revenue,” she said.
For her part, the Rothe Constituency legislator, Manthabiseng Phohleli who is also a member of the portfolio committee emphasised the need for councils to be granted the powers to collect revenue.
“It is shocking that a local chief in a village gets to collect over M200 000 from permits for mining quarry and sandstone but the Maseru District Council only budgets for collection of M 10 800,” said Ms Phohleli.
Mr Makoetje said as the “custodians of the decentralisation policy,” the Local Government ministry was “working tirelessly to ensure that “we overcome this challenge to enable community councils to benefit from their resources”.
In his response, Mr Liholo said although the Local Government and Chieftainship Act had a Schedule that empowered councils to collect revenue from stone quarries mining and sand collection in their jurisdictions, this conflicted with the Mining Act on the mining of stone quarries and collection of sand from rivers.
“We have many ministries, if not seven, that are ready to decentralise powers to the local councils. Cabinet has established a cabinet subcommittee led by Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing on speeding the work on decentralisation,” said Mr Liholo.
He also said the local government bill to empower councils to have powers to collect revenue had been approved by the cabinet sub-committee after it had been discussed by cabinet.
For his part, Mr Litjobo said the Portfolio Committee wanted to see the bill being tabled in parliament with clear clauses that empowered the councils to collect their own revenue and function independently.
He also said mining powers had to be decentralised to the councils to stop mining companies from benefiting without paying their dues to councils.
“It is shocking that the Ministry of Mining does not see the need to decentralise powers to the community councils for the benefit of this country,” said Mr Litjobo said.
He said the portfolio committee would make such amendments without consulting the ministry if it failed to include clauses that empowered the councils to collect their own revenue.
“We will do that without even consulting the ministry if it fails to ensure that the bill empowers the councils. Our country is failing to develop due to our own failures,” said Mr Litjobo.