. . .as it promises to pay suppliers to by 31 March
THE government plans to centralise the procurement of goods and services in a bid to curb corruption and improve efficiency, Finance Minister Rets’ilisitsoe Matlanyane has said.
Dr Matlanyane told a post 2023/24 fiscal year budget speech gala dinner this week that procurement through line ministries would soon be a thing of the past. The responsibility would now fall under her ministry.
She however, did not say when the new system will be implemented.
The event was organised by Nedbank and Revenue Services Lesotho.
“We have decided to centralise government procurement through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to avoid corruption and improve government operations,” she said.
Corruption through “mis-procurement” had been the country’s worst enemy for many years and this had to stop immediately, she said.
But while some business people at the gala welcomed the government’s centralization initiative, they doubted whether it would work effectively in real terms.
Speaking during a question and answer session, Computer Business Solutions (Pvt) Ltd Managing Director, Mohlalefi Sefika, said the plan sounded noble. However, he was not sure whether it would work.
“Would it not be a matter of transferring corruption in the line ministries to the Finance and Development Planning Ministry?” Dr Sefika asked.
In response, Dr Matlanyane said the government was working on modalities before implementing the move to ensure its success.
She said the decision to centralise state procurement was in line with the new administration’s commitment to set a foundation for reconstruction and recovery of the country’s ailing economy.
The budget also sought to consolidate growth and foster economic resilience, the minister had said while presenting her speech to parliament earlier on Tuesday.
The theme of the 2023/24 budget is “From Reconstruction and Recovery to Growth and Resilience.”
Dr Matlanyane also reiterated during the gala, the government’s promise to pay some of the suppliers “with genuine and approved invoices” by 31 March 2023. The date marks the end of the current 2022/2023 financial year.
She said the government had raised some funds to settle its arrears with local suppliers that had accrued over many years.
Others would be paid along the way as and when the government got additional funds.
But not everyone who submitted invoices would be paid. “I will not be paying for services that were supplied without government purchase orders. I will only pay those with verifiable and audited invoices. I’m serious on this,” Dr Matlanyane said.
“Some of the requisitions were made by government officers over the phone. That is not government procedure. Such behaviour is a clear indication that their ministries or departments don’t have budgets for the services they are requesting.”
Government Secretary, Lerotholi Pheko, in November last year also warned suppliers against doing business with government without purchase orders as they would not be paid.
Mr Pheko said this during new Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s consultative meeting with media organisations in Maseru.
He said the huge government debt was due to years of “mis-procurement” by rogue ministry officials, who requested services despite knowing fully well that they did not have budgets to pay for the procured services.
Long-suffering media houses like the Lesotho Times who are owed millions of maloti by the state for services rendered over many years are hoping the government fulfills its promise to pay suppliers by this month end and avoid a jobs bloodbath.