JUDGES, police officers, legislators and government employees are viewed by most Basotho as the most corrupt public officials, the latest report from the Afrobarometer research institute reveals.
The same findings show that Basotho have mixed views on the impartiality and effectiveness of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) and the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) in fighting corruption.
This is the first ever report which has implicated Lesotho’s judges in corruption. The report does not nevertheless detail the nature of the corruption that the country’s judges are involved in.
Afrobarometer is a pan-African, non-partisan research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions, and related issues in Africa.
The internationally acclaimed research institute noted that “corruption poses a serious threat to economic development and democratic governance in Africa”.
“In recent years, Lesotho has been shaken by a number of corruption scandals involving high-ranking politicians. Allegations of corruption in the government fleet-service contract with (South Africa’s) Bidvest company featured significantly in the split of the Democratic Congress (DC) party and the no-confidence vote that ended the Pakalitha Mosisili government in 2017. Lesotho’s ranking in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index dropped from 55th in 2013 to 83rd in 2016 before rebounding to 74th in 2017.
“In an attempt to combat corruption and restore public confidence, the (Thabane) government has taken some steps. After elections in June 2017, parliament’s new Public Accounts Committee (PAC) conducted its hearings on national television, allowing Basotho to hear about charges that government officials misappropriated public funds.
“The Auditor General has consistently criticised the government’s consolidated financial statements which the PAC studies and references in following up with government departments on their use of public funds for noncompliance with legal requirements,” Afrobarometer reported in its latest findings.
The research institute found that although a growing number of Basotho (60 percent) felt that the Thabane regime was doing more to fight the scourge, corruption still persisted among public officials especially the police, judges and legislators.
Two-thirds (68 percent) of the respondents also felt that while “ordinary people could make a difference in the fight against corruption,” they risked retaliation if they reported corruption.
“Citizens gave increasingly positive assessments of the government’s performance in fighting corruption with 60 percent saying the government is doing ‘fairly well’ or ‘very well’ up from 35 percent a decade ago.
“Growing majorities of Basotho say that some government officials, police officers, and judges are corrupt. Police, government officials, and members of parliament are seen as the most corrupt public officials. Religious and traditional leaders are most widely seen as free of corruption.”
One-third of the respondents gave a scathing view of the police, saying “most” or “all” of them are corrupt. Government employees were the next in line with 28 percent of the respondents saying most or all of them are corrupt. Fifteen percent said that all judges and magistrates are corrupt while 10 percent said the same for business executives. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were ranked as the least corrupt as only nine percent felt that all NGOs were corrupt.
Legislators came in at third with 22 percent of the respondents saying most or all of them are corrupt. Twenty percent said the premier and the officials in his office are corrupt while 17 percent said the same about employees at the Lesotho Revenue Authority.
“Two-thirds (65 percent) of Basotho say that ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption, and even more (70 percent) think that it is likely that authorities will act on reports of corruption. But two-thirds (68 percent) also say that people risk retaliation if they report corruption.”
There were mixed views regarding the performance of the DCEO and the PCA in fighting corruption.
More than one-third (36 percent) of respondents said the DCEO was “neutral”, while 28 percent said it “favours certain interests” and another third said they “don’t know”.
“Similarly, 36 percent of Basotho said the PCA acts as a neutral body but 31 percent see it as biased and the same proportion said they “don’t know.”
Afrobarometer also found that although more Basotho felt the government had upped the fight against corruption, graft “remains a significant problem in the public mind”, ranking at number seven in the list of the “most important problems” that citizens say the government should address.
Unemployment is the major issue that Basotho want the government to address, followed by the lack of infrastructure such as roads, provision of electricity and water. Other problems identified as pressing concerns are poverty (ranked fifth most pressing concern), crime and security (eighth), provision of other services (ninth), education (tenth), food shortages and famine (eleventh), health (twelfth) and agriculture (thirteenth).
Summary of the key findings
- A growing number of Basotho see the level of corruption in the country as having decreased over the previous year (41 percent, up from 26 percent in 2014).
- About the same proportion (39 percent) say corruption has increased.
- Citizens give increasingly positive assessments of the government’s performance in fighting corruption. 60 percent say the government is doing “fairly well” or “very well,” up from 35 percent a decade ago.
- But growing majorities of Basotho say that at least “some” elected and government officials, police officials, and judges are corrupt.
- Police, government officials, and members of Parliament are seen as the most corrupt public officials. Religious and traditional leaders are most widely seen as free of corruption.
- Two-thirds (65 percent) of Basotho say that ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption, and even more (70 percent) think it’s likely that authorities will act on reports of corruption. But two-thirds (68 percent) also say that people risk retaliation if they report corruption.
- Basotho have mixed views on the impartiality of two entities with important roles to play in ensuring the integrity of Lesotho’s public sector – the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) and the Police Complaints Authority (PCA).