OUR lead story this week reveals how corrupt workers at the Government Printing and Stationery Office have been illegally printing and selling travel documents, government order books and vehicle registration certificates to the public.
It is clear that these corrupt employees have been on the loose for some time now.
Their nefarious activities have become entrenched and the system is now well-oiled.
The ripple effect of their illegal activities has spread through the government and it has touched people’s lives as well.
Their damage has been colossal.
Because of the counterfeit “blue cards” they sell it has become easier for criminals to register stolen vehicles in Lesotho.
Thanks to them, Lesotho has now become a haven for stolen vehicles.
The government has lost millions of maloti as dodgy businesses use fake government orders provided by these corrupt officials to claim payments from the treasury for services and goods they would have never provided.
These people are using government resources to rob the government.
They are using government machines to print order books that will be used to defraud the state.
The Passport Services Department has stopped issuing temporary travel documents, whose production has been halted to make way for investigations into the printing department.
Thousands of people are now stranded after failing to get the documents.
These corrupt people are sabotaging Lesotho’s already fragile economy.
Already a poor country, Lesotho does not need civil servants who drill holes into its finances through corrupt means.
Those in charge must answer why such blatantly shady activities have been allowed to go undetected for all these years.
Was it by design or incompetence that they failed to see corruption when it entered their department, laid the proverbial eggs and hatched?
It’s a serious indictment of the managers in that department and we strongly believe that heads must roll.
It’s safe to say that these dodgy civil servants will most likely be prosecuted.
Yet if we are serious about winning the battle against corruption we must look beyond the mere punishment of these crooked workers or the dismissal of their management.
We must review our systems that have proven so easy to manipulate.
If our systems could be breached by a handful of officials then they are not worth keeping.
Weak systems nurture corruption.
Yet we cannot blame it on the systems alone.
We cannot be blind to the fact that there are people in our midst hell-bent on making easy money from the government.
Nor can we deny that the lenient manner with which we have dealt with previous culprits could have only served to motivate others.
The price that some culprits have paid for being caught with their hands in the cookie jar is completely outweighed by what they would have stolen.
We have seen people, including civil servants, convicted of stealing hundreds of thousands from the government doing a few years in jail and then coming back to enjoy their loot.
Some have even escaped with fines.
Lesotho needs to be tough with corrupt government officials.
It should be tough on any form of corruption.
Those that steal from the state must pay heavily.
The fight against corruption starts with the government showing that it is committed to fighting both the battle and the war.
The private sector and the people can only take a cue from the government.
The officials in the printing department must be used as an example.
Not sacrificial lambs but examples to illustrate that, indeed, corruption does not pay.
In the meantime the government should start working on strengthening its systems.