Ultimate magazine theme for WordPress.

How does Lesotho fare on combating corruption?

Mzimkhulu Sithetho


A million-dollar question in public perception is that the country registers low, while corruption continues to ravage the social fabric of society.

Lesotho has been under a dark cloud of public perception about the state of corruption that is believed to have ravaged the country’s public service and other sectors.

The tardy economic development of the country is attributed to the prevalence of this vice, which is believed to have gnawed away public confidence in the state as a result of decay of morality and ethical practice among those who have been entrusted to manage and run public affairs.

As a political commitment to combating this vice, Lesotho signed the African Union Convention on Combating Corruption of 2006, which came into effect in 2006, in Maputo, Mozambique.

As a member-state of AU, Lesotho vowed to ensure that she would create an ethical society that is void of corruption.

Under the convention, Lesotho expresses her concern about negative effects of corruption and impunity on the political, economic, social and cultural stability of African states and the devastating effects on the economic and social development of the African people.

According to the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) of the Transparency International of 2013, Lesotho is ranked 64th with regard to efforts it puts forth to fighting corruption.

Lesotho’s anti-corruption unit feels this is an improvement given that the country has ascended from the 89th position in 2012, however, this is only a perception index, which might not necessarily reflect the stark realities on the ground as regards the ravenous effect that the vile has on society beyond the numbers.

Transparency International is the global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption.

Through more than 90 chapters worldwide and an international secretariat in Berlin, TI raises awareness of the damaging effects of corruption and works with partners in government, business and civil society to develop and implement effective measures to tackle it.

Public perception has historically been that there is endemic corruption in the public service in Lesotho.

As opposed to the Transparency International’s positive image painted on Lesotho’s improvement on curbing corruption, other self-assessment mechanisms paint a dim picture about the country regarding her efforts to arrest the social ill that has gnawed away the moral fibre of society, which in turn, has led to a total moral degeneration.

The negative perception firmly held by Lesotho’s society about levels of corruption, especially in the public sector has been confirmed by the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) country report of 2010.

The report states: “there is still over-centralisation of state functioning; and nepotism and corruption appear to go unchecked. Public service accountability is generally acknowledged to be very weak.

“These persistent challenges limit the effectiveness of the efforts that are being made to improve public service performance and accountability”.

“Public accountability is problematic and there are growing concerns over creeping cronyism and corruption”, the report states.

APRM is an African home-grown initiative that assesses the state of governance in member-states’ that have acceded to the mechanism.

Lesotho acceded in 2004 and was assessed in 2009. Therefore, the APRM assessed Lesotho’s performance in governance in four thematic areas; democracy and political governance, economic governance and management, corporate governance and socio-economic development.

It assessed the country record on these during the period 1996-2006.

The African states under the Convention on Combating Corruption of 2003 also recognise the fact that “corruption undermines accountability and transparency in the management of public affairs as well as socio-economic development on the continent.”

An overarching principle of the convention is that state parties that are signatory to the convention condemn and reject acts of corruption, related offenses and impunity.

However, Lesotho’s government has been in denial over the prevalence of corruption since 1993, when the country returned to democratic rule.

This has been shown by an array of defence mechanisms of state against criticism on corruption.

In response to the APRM’s critique of Lesotho’s inability to arrest corruption and public service inefficiencies, the former government was not receptive to the criticism that it had failed to clamp down on corruption, which was buttressed by the former Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili’s response made at the Heads of State and Government meeting in Addis Ababa in 2011.

He said: “In my opinion, the report (APRM Country Review Report of 2012) was certainly too harsh in its observations about the so-called endemism of corruption in Lesotho and the lack of efficiency and accountability in the public service.

“Indeed, I must hasten to acknowledge that perception of public service inefficiency in Lesotho does exist, and it is grounded in reality.

“I can only highlight the fact that serious initiatives are already being taken to remedy the lack of good performance on the part of the public service.”

In 2009, the Government of Lesotho passed a law in Parliament that allowed it to avoid an albatross of being held accountable for the public funds that had not been accounted for in the period between 1996-2001.

This law came to be known as the State of Public Finances Act of 2008.

This was because the books of accounts for the five-year period were said to be not in a good standing such that they could not be prepared for audit.

Furthermore, countries that are party to the convention like Lesotho are bound by the convention to develop legislative and other measures that include among others, the establishment, maintenance and strengthening of independent national anti-corruption authorities and agencies.

Lesotho has established the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offenses (DCEO), which came into effect in 2001 and promulgation of a law, the Prevention of Corruption and Economic Offenses of 2000.

Critical question abound around the effectiveness of DCEO in arresting corruption and economic offenses.

As earlier mentioned, the Convention binds participating states to work hand-in-glove with civil society organisations as partners in the fight against corruption.

However, the Democracy Educator at the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC), Tsikoane Peshoane says there is no formal relationship between the DCEO and civil society organisations, except that the anti-corruption unit invites them on an ad hoc basis.

He says civil society organisations are not represented in the inner structures or committees of the DCEO.

On the question of whether NGOs have programmes dealing directly with corruption, he said there are none, except that NGOs work, which is to hold the government accountable inherently touches on corruption.

“By its very nature of being to hold the executive branch of government accountable, it therefore inheres that we indirectly deal with the issue of corruption.

“Our work hinges on good governance and the fight against corruption is a governance issue,” Peshoane says.

TRC also educates communities on democracy and empowers them on how they can effectively demand improved service delivery from the government and also how they can demand their elected representatives to account to them.

The civil society work towards fighting corruption is largely defined by the resources they have.

Corruption is one of the areas of interest for the public and CSO has interest.

CSO have issued statements and made pronouncements on the PAC reports emanating from the Auditor General reports.

In more specific terms, DPE has been disturbed by the corruption in the Grazing land Penalty fees.

Meanwhile, the Coordinator of the Development for Peace Education, local NHOP working on community animation to mobilise communities on national development issues, Sofonea Shale states that the DCEO has invited NGOs to participate in the perceptions study, in the national conference on corruption (Curbing) and other activities mainly education.

He says, “in particular at DPE, DCEO has (i) Offered in-house-training on the definition and dynamics of corruption.

“The interest of DPE was in the local governance (ii) Agreed in writing to work with DPE in involving communities in dealing with corruption within the Councils, (iii) DPE had a proposal to be funded by the World Bank to do social audit in the councils but that was stalled by the fact that suddenly the funding unit dried up.

“DPE was going to join hands with DCEO on this matter”

Shale argues that corruption is rife in Lesotho and that people in the private and public sector collude within the framework they believe would not be traced.

“For example, payments may not be made unless service providers bribe officials yet their communication and language is that which can be hard to characterise as obvious corruption”, Shale posits.

Historically, corruption busting has been a function of the police service with their Criminal Investigation Division (CID).

This unit investigated acts of bribery, graft, forgery, fraud and other ills that amount to corruption.

In 2000, Parliament passed the of Corruption and Economic Offenses Act of 2000 that gave birth to the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offenses, the Prevention in 2001.

There has been public criticism that the DCEO was unable to bring to book the big fish of the country when they committed crime.

Previously, the DCEO has been limited to the public service regarding the mandate and parameters of its duties of fighting corruption.

The private sector, which in most cases, acts in connivance with the public sector in acts of corruption has been spared from investigation.

This has had a chilling effect on the effectiveness of the DCEO, as it was limited to the public service, even if a syndicate involved private sector practitioners.

The DCEO ACT was amended in 2006 to broaden the scope of the work of the DCEO.

Lesotho is under review from the African Union Board on Corruption, an exercise which is intended to establish how the country fares in combating the vile that has turned into a menace that ravages the social fabric of society.

This review is part of the AU’s efforts to trace developments in its member-states in arresting corruption.

The review comes as a result of member-states’ commitment, which they showed by signing the African Union Convention on Combating Corruption of 2006, which came into effect in 2006, in Maputo, Mozambique.

The member-states vowed that they would ensure that they create ethical societies that are void of corruption.


  • Sithetho is a journalist based in Maseru

Comments are closed.