EU funds to Lesotho can’t be looted: Manahl
The European Union (EU) has mechanisms in place to curb the abuse of funds it donates to Lesotho, EU Ambassador Christian Manahl has said.
Dr Manahl said this on the sidelines of the EU’s political dialogue with the government in Maseru on Tuesday.
He was responding to questions from the media regarding the EU’s stance to the recent awarding of fuel allowances to Lesotho’s legislators as well as their demands for two private secretaries each.
Starting this month, parliamentarians who are not cabinet members will receive monthly tax-free fuel allowances of M5000 each. This means that the MPs will each receive a total of M60 000 per annum.
The demand for perks has been roundly condemned by the public and analysts as “heartless and selfish”. For instance, an MP earns M37 000 monthly. This in addition to a host of perks including M500 000 interest-free loan per person. The M37 000 salary is more than 18 times that of factory workers who currently earn just over M2 000.
Asked about the EU’s views on the allowances when government was always asking for development assistance from the EU and other international organisations, Dr Manahl said the EU could not interfere in the matter as it was not giving any budgetary support to Lesotho.
He however, said the EU has mechanisms in place to guard against corruption and the abuse of funds it donates for special projects.
“We try to make sure that the financing that we provide to Lesotho is targeted to the specific areas that we have agreed with the government,” Dr Manahl said.
“We have support programmes that help us carefully monitor where the money goes. All our programmes are properly audited.
“The financing that we provide to Lesotho is targeted to specific areas that we have agreed with the government which are currently water supply, water management and management of the catchment areas as well as the energy sector.”
The EU is one of the country’s most steadfast developmental partners playing a pivotal role in financing various developmental projects.
This month, the organisation donated €780 000 (about M13, 6 million) to Lesotho for various humanitarian projects aimed at assisting vulnerable households in the country.
Of the fund, €600 000 is meant to finance disaster preparedness projects while the remaining €180 000 will go towards the “education in emergencies (EIE)” project.
The EIE project is an EU initiative aimed at helping children affected by humanitarian crises to have access to safe, quality and accredited primary and secondary education. Where children have dropped out of school due to emergencies and other humanitarian crises, the project seeks to get them back into schools.
In October 2019 the EU gave the World Food Programme (WFP) €1,5 million (about M25, 923 868) to provide emergency food aid to at least 22 000 Basotho in need of food assistance.
Dr Manahl said they have also availed smaller amounts to finance civil society groups that advocate for human rights and democracy.
“These are done through calls for proposals where the different non-governmental organisations can make proposals to us and we look at them, we evaluate them and provide grants.”
He said the EU’s “good relations” with Lesotho had also enabled local medical cannabis producer MG Health accreditation to sell its cannabis flower oil and extracts to the EU countries.
“MG Health, formerly Medigrow, has been found compliant with the EU’s good manufacturing practice (GMP) and Lesotho has therefore, become the first African country to win permission to legally export medical cannabis to the European Union.
“This is a small but important step towards diversification of exports beyond what has hitherto been a narrow area of exports of minerals, namely raw diamonds, which accounted for almost the totality of export value from Lesotho to the EU,” Dr Manahl said.