PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane has spoken of a “dark cloud hanging over the country” due to rampant lawlessness, lack of accountability and abuse of national resources especially by civil servants.
Dr Thabane said this while officially opening a one-day retreat for principal secretaries in Berea on Tuesday. He said the retreat was being held against the background of public discontent over poor service delivery by civil servants across all the sectors of government.
He conceded that the political instability which was evidenced by the premature collapse of governments contributed to the poor performance of the civil service.
The current four party coalition is the third government that Lesotho has had in five years after the collapse of two governments in 2015 and 2017.
“The very fact that this is the third government in a space of five years, which is supposed to be a lifetime of a single government, is a grave testimony of the serious challenges facing this nation in the choice and shepherding of those delegated to manage the affairs of our communities,” Dr Thabane said.
He said although there was political instability, there was no escaping the fact that the civil service had itself been guilty of abusing national resources and lack of professionalism in the discharge of its mandate.
“While this stumbling block (the collapse of governments) that the public service has had to contend with cannot be casually explained away with a slight of hand, the nation will certainly be alert to the dark cloud of lawlessness, lack of accountability, wanton abuse of national resources, depressed morale and resultant death of professionalism among civil servants in recent years.”
He said his government could ill afford to allow the lack of professionalism and the resultant poor service delivery to continue and it would therefore work flat out to remedy the situation.
He said the government’s commitment to the precepts of good governance – encompassing transparency, openness, accountability and responsiveness to citizens’ demands – was illustrated by its decision to allow the media to broadcast the proceedings of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and other parliamentary committees.
So far PAC under the leadership of the Movement for Economic Change leader, Selibe Mochoboroane, has uncovered massive irregularities involving millions of maloti since it began grilling senior civil servants on 5 February this year. It has also sought to have four senior officials from different ministries imprisoned for misleading the National Assembly.
The PAC also recommended that Berea District Council Secretary, ‘Mathabang Tlali; Economic Planner, Ntsotiseng Motaung and another official identified as Mosebi Mokhubu be slapped with a one-year jail term each or a M1 000 fine for lying to the committee.
The trio had lied that the Berea District Council had constructed roads in the Ha Makoanyane area.
The portfolio committee also recommended that an official in the Ministry of Education and Training’s Education Facilities Unit (EFU), ‘Maliteboho Makhoali, be jailed for misusing M300 000 earmarked for the development of a school in Ketane.
And on Tuesday, Dr Thabane said such findings by the PAC and other parliamentary committees were “frightening”.
He said his government had no choice but to take corrective measures because the failure to act was the reason behind the collapse of the previous governments. He said it was for this reason that the government had organised the retreat for principal secretaries.
“The government is aware of the nation’s anxiety on the slow pace of service delivery hence this retreat. The government is doing its best to open all channels of communication so that it is on the same page with its masters who are the nation. We need to do away with all obstacles to meeting the nation’s needs,” Dr Thabane said.
Dr Thabane also spoke about the government’s commitment to meeting the deadline for the implementation of the constitutional, security sector, governance, public service and media reforms.
Last week the Southern African Development Community (SADC) gave Lesotho until May 2019 to fully implement the constitutional and security sector reforms.
Commenting on the SADC deadline, Dr Thabane said, “Much has been made of the recent SADC Double Troika Summit’s May 2019 deadline for the implementation of constitutional and security sector reforms”.
“This cannot be played down by this government which agreed (to the deadline) as an equal and willing partner with other state parties. It is common knowledge that it is customary for SADC and other bodies to pencil dates for achievements of agreements or any other activity which should be time-bound and this is not a first for Lesotho.”
Lesotho is generally way behind in terms of the reforms timeline hence the SADC deadline.
According to the government’s roadmap for reforms, national dialogue on the reforms should have been held by now and an agreement should have been reached on the reforms to the justice sector, among other things.
The roadmap further states that by now the National Security Policy (NSP) of Lesotho should have been adopted and a National Security Council established.
“Legislation to clarify and harmonise security sector architecture in line with NSP/Security Sector Strategy (should have been) adopted.
“The legislative process should be preceded by multi-stakeholder discussions around the key topics that should be addressed in the law including the National Defence Act and the Police Act. The discussions should be informed by regional, continental and international best practice,” part of the roadmap states.
However, Dr Thabane said the government’s commitments to reforms had been amply demonstrated by the publication of the reforms roadmap which has since been endorsed by SADC.
He said the series of consultations involving political parties and other stakeholders was further evidence of the government’s commitment to the reforms.