FINANCE Minister Moeketsi Majoro has called for an aggressive approach in fighting corruption which is haemorrhaging the fiscus and preventing government from implementing its priorities of efficient service delivery, job creation and overall economic development.
Dr Majoro said this at the recent 4th Anti-Corruption Symposium jointly organised by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO), the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) and Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) to mark the International Anti-Corruption Day in Maseru.
He identified corruption as Lesotho’s most challenging phenomenon with public servants collaborating with people in the private sector to loot state resources.
“Corruption is by far the most crucial challenge that faces our society today. Public officials, very often in collusion with those from the private sector, plunder state resources, take bribes and kickbacks and launder the proceeds of crime. In many cases, government gets into unfavourable contracts that waste public resources and fail to deliver government priorities,” Dr Majoro said.
He added that there were worrying signs that the criminals were getting more sophisticated in their activities. He said it was even more worrying that there was no prosecution and jailing of senior officers which gave the impression of laxity within the legal system.
“Corruption impacts society adversely and must be fought aggressively by implementing domestic and international laws. Our collective efforts must ensure that tax receipts, whether from Basotho or from citizens of our partner countries serve all the Basotho people rather than a few with ability to divert them for personal gain.
“As governments come and go, we see worrying signs of increasingly well-orchestrated and bold incidences of corruption, fraud and bribery. The lack of successful prosecution and jailing of senior people fosters a perception that our systems and collaborative actions are not matched to the task of fighting corruption,” Dr Majoro said.
“Lesotho has the legislation that criminalises corruption, money laundering, fraud, bribery, financing of terrorism, trafficking of people and drugs. But we still face challenges in the readiness to successfully investigate and prosecute all these crimes.
“We still resist the introduction of effective measures towards enhancing transparency, accountability and the rule of law, including a simple call to declare assets and interests by politically exposed persons as required by our laws. But we must have the courage to continue this fight because corruption stands in the way of human progress and the creation of thousands of jobs we need for our young people.”
He further said that Lesotho had witnessed an upsurge of organised crimes ranging from capital flight, trafficking in persons, fraud, deliberate interference by authorities in public procurement and recruitment processes and the creation of a ghost civil service.
“Painfully the creation of ghost recipients is created with the assistance of chiefs and priests who should be at the forefront of the moral restoration we so dearly need.
“Lesotho should thus ramp up its confiscation of the proceeds of crime and should enable crime fighting agencies to use these proceeds to fight more crime. There should be more investigators, more forensic work and more tools funded from a fund established from these ill-gotten gains.”
He said that Lesotho was aligning with the African Union efforts to fight corruption and has therefore adopted the theme ‘Winning the Fight against Corruption: The Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation’.
“The African Union has declared 2018 as the Anti-Corruption Year for Africa. It sees corruption as an obstacle to Africa’s transformation. Endemic corruption imposes devastating effects on African economies. It rewards a few already prosperous individuals, banishes the rest of society to a life of permanent poverty and punishes meritocracy.
“Through illicit financial outflows, Africa is losing more hard-earned money than it receives in aid and foreign direct investment. At the centre of these losses of wealth are international crime syndicates and firms working with local enablers through complex ownership schemes operated from safe offshore tax havens.”
Dr Majoro said for Lesotho, the results of corruption were a weak economy, high levels of poverty, lack of transparency and accountability in governance institutions.