Parliament must make ministries accountable

THE auditor-general Lucy Liphafa last week released yet another damning report on the state of the country’s finances.

The 2007/8 report lists a litany of abuses of government resources.

It paints a disturbing picture of government expenditure that has gone haywire.

The report says there is rampant failure to comply with basic government rules, regulations and procedures.

“The issues that I have repeatedly raised are not being addressed,” Liphafa moaned.

We are disturbed that in spite of these damning reports every year there appears to be no political will to stop the rot and rectify the anomalies.

This lackadaisical approach will prove to be Lesotho’s undoing.

It is our fervent hope that parliament will hold ministries to account.

But there is one disturbing report that we feel needs special attention.

It concerns the Ministry of Health.

The report says during the 2007/8 financial year the health ministry returned nearly 20 percent of its budget allocation to the treasury department because the funds had not been utilised.

This represented about M93.8 million of the total M525 326 574 that had been allocated to the ministry.

This failure to expend funds should surely come as a shock to the nation given the immense challenges facing the health sector.

We find it quite difficult to fathom how the ministry could sit on such large cash reserves when our health delivery system is almost on its knees.

Lesotho’s health delivery system is creaking under the weight of a burgeoning HIV and Aids crisis.

Queen Elizabeth II, the country’s only referral hospital, is struggling to provide the barest of medical care.

The hospital has no drugs.

Linen is in short supply.

Patients sometimes have to sleep on the floor because there are no enough beds in the wards.

Some patients have to endure cold showers because there is no hot water in the bathrooms after the geyser broke down.

Basic medical supplies like gloves are also said to be in short supply putting the health of workers at risk.

Critical equipment such as the computed axial tomography scan, commonly known as a CT scan, broke down and was only repaired in 2009.

Patients requiring X-rays had to be transferred to Bloemfontein, South Africa.

But in spite of all these problems the health ministry saw it fit to return a whopping M93.8 million to the treasury department.

Queen Elizabeth II Hospital was allocated M115 million in the financial year but only managed to use about M105 million.

A staggering M10.4 million had to be returned to treasury.

The social welfare department also failed to utilise the M7.9 million that was allocated to it.

The department only used M3.3 million of its allocation.

There are just too many problems that could have been solved with that money.

We are at a loss as to how this was allowed to happen.

Financial prudence might be a virtue.

But given the immense challenges facing Lesotho’s health sector the decision to fail to spend should be seen as nothing short of a scandal.

Saving money should never be done at the expense of service delivery.

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