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Matekane hits the ground running

  • vows to “make Lesotho great again”,
  • announces 20 point-plan to stabilise the country and achieve growth,
  • highlights include performance-based contracts for PM, cabinet ministers
  • missing M6, 1 billion will be probed,
  • long-suffering govt suppliers could finally be paid…

’Marafaele Mohloboli/Bongiwe Zihlangu

NEWLY-ELECTED Prime Minister, Sam Matekane’s 20 point plan to stabilise the country and foster socio-economic growth has been resoundingly welcomed by most Basotho who said they were weary of decades of poverty, joblessness and a host of other social ills.

Mr Matekane’s ambitious plan, to be implemented within his first 100 days in office, includes the introduction of mandatory performance based contracts for himself and his cabinet ministers, fighting crime and corruption, reining in state spending and paying off long-suffering government suppliers.

Several people who spoke to the Sunday Express yesterday hailed the premier’s well-articulated plan, saying if implemented to the letter, it would be the right tonic for achieving sustainable socio-economic growth. (See Vox Pop on Page 4).

Mr Matekane was sworn in on Friday in front of several regional leaders and international development partners at a fully packed and rocking Setsoto Stadium in Maseru.

South African President and SADC facilitator to Lesotho, Cyril Ramaphosa, graced the event along with several members of his government as well as opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader, Julius Malema. Also in attendance was Namibian President, Hage Geingob. He is also chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation.

Other presidents who graced the event are Zambia’s Hakainde Hichilema and Botswana’s Mokgweetsi Masisi. His predecessor, Ian Khama, also attended while Zimbabwe was represented by its Foreign Affairs minister, Frederick Shava.

As a show of confidence in the new government, United States President, Joe Biden, sent a high-powered delegation led by Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) CEO, Alice Albright. In May this year, the MCC and the former government signed a lucrative US$300 million deal for a second MCC compact to fund various projects aimed at fostering socio-economic growth in Lesotho.

The presence of Ms Albright and her delegation is therefore a ringing endorsement of Mr Matekane whose government will implement the second compact.

In his maiden speech shortly after taking the oath of office on Friday, Mr Matekane wasted no time in outlining a 100-day programme based on 20 action points aimed at putting Lesotho on course for a social and economic turnaround.

“Recent research shows that Lesotho’s macroeconomic position has been deteriorating since 2015,” Mr Matekane said.

“Our economy has been in recession since 2017. Lesotho’s public spending has increased over the last few years, and has reached 65 percent of the GDP in this (2022/23) financial year. Today, 86 percent of Lesotho’s national budget is absorbed by government consumption, particularly public wages that are estimated at 32 percent of our GDP. Public procurement, which is roughly 35 percent of GDP, is key in determining the effectiveness of government in delivering essential services, programmes and projects; but it is arguably the worst managed.

“Under my leadership, Your Majesty (King Letsie III)’s government…has to fix the imbalances and achieve macroeconomic stability. It has to reform the public service to make it more efficient, transparent, accountable and effective. We have to uproot corruption and stop the rampant embezzlement of public funds. These things have to be done in order to restore the hope of our people, and to solicit their buy-in as we prepare to launch our country on to new horizons, and higher and more ambitious levels of development. I promise that I will spearhead the process to right our country’s historical wrongs and make Lesotho great again. We are equal to this task, and we will not be found wanting. It would be naive of me if I were to imagine that the road ahead will be smooth. Certainly not. But change is a binding imperative in our present situation. The absence of a rigorous system of monitoring and evaluation can easily foster a culture of impunity, in which there are no consequences for poor performance and wrong-doing,” he said.

Good governance

He then outlined an ambitious 20-point plan to be achieved during his first 100 days in office.

He said as one of the first tasks towards realising his quest of “making Lesotho great again,” he would work on establishing good governance practices in his administration.

To achieve this, Mr Matekane tasked the government secretary to “prepare my performance contract and those of honourable ministers and ensure that they are signed in 30 days”. The contracts should then be made public, the premier said. It is not clear whether this task would be undertaken by current Government Secretary, Lerotholi Pheko, who was appointed by former Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro or whether Mr Matekane will appoint a new person when he announces his new cabinet.

The government secretary was also instructed to prepare performance contracts for principal secretaries and have them signed within 30 days before making them public.

Other key aspects of the 20-point plan to be implemented by the government secretary as part of efforts to achieve good governance are as follows:

  • Develop tools and a standardised system of performance reporting and reflection for the whole of government, including district administrators and local authorities in the first 100 days.
  • Use appropriate public service legislation and policies and deploy relevant public officials to the authority of district administrators, and district, urban and community councils in 100 days. Make sure that district administrators and councils are accountable for the government’s programme of action and service delivery in their respective districts.
  • Develop a system through which citizens can monitor and report on the performance of the public sector and through which their inputs can be recorded and responded to in the first 100 days.
  • Develop a plan of how government should capacitate the institution of chieftainship for improved service delivery, accountability and good governance, targeting chiefs who serve their communities daily for 24 hours.
  • Organise a meeting between “my office and all district administrators and council chairpersons in 10 days”.

In addition to achieving good governance, Mr Matekane is leaving no stone unturned in his quest to foster inclusivity and accountability.

To this end, the prime minister has tasked the government secretary to organise a meeting between the prime minister’s office and all media institutions in the country and civil society organisations. This meeting should take place within 15 days, the prime minister said.

Fiscal discipline

Mr Matekane made it clear that his government would rein in excessive government expenditure. To this end, the premier tasked the government secretary to immediately begin investigations into the M6, 1 billion government funds which Auditor General, Monica Besetsa, said could not be accounted for in the 2020/21 financial year. Ms Besetsa made the findings in her latest report on government revenues for the financial year which ended on 31 March 2021.

Much to the delight and approval of the vociferous and appreciative crowd, Mr Matekane said the probe into the funds, which could not be accounted for by the previous Majoro-led government, must begin and the findings should be made public within 15 days of the completion of the probe.

Other measures to be undertaken in terms of the 20-point plan to restore fiscal discipline include the following:

  • The government secretary must identify all areas of public financial wastage and make his recommendations to the prime minister. This must be done within 60 days;
  • Establish and publicise a corruption, theft and embezzlement amnesty programme in 30 days;
  • In 100 days, the government secretary must take stock of all government vehicles, rationalise them and provide each local authority in Lesotho with at least one vehicle to enable them to conduct the business of government.
  • Develop and implement a plan to cut unnecessary government spending on fleet management and fuel consumption in the first 100 days.

Reforming state-owned entities

For a long time, state-owned enterprises and other companies in which the government holds stakes have been flagged for their failure to declare dividends and provide services to the public in line with their mandate. All this could soon change after Mr Matekane announced plans to turn the operations of such companies and SOEs around.

Among other things, the government secretary has been tasked to develop a plan showing how all SOEs will report to the government on their operations. That reporting plan must be developed within 30 days and made public, the prime minister said.

The premier has also demanded a report on all companies in which the government has shares. The report should detail which of these companies are actually paying dividends and it should explain why others are not paying anything. The government holds minority shares in all diamond mining companies in the country. It also owns a minority stake in mobile communications giant, Econet Telecom Lesotho.

Paying service providers

Long suffering government suppliers who are said to be owed more than M1 billion by the previous governments could soon be smiling all the way to the bank. This after Mr Matekane ordered the government secretary to “prepare a list of all people who are owed money by the government and make your recommendations accordingly within 30 days”.

Even village health workers who are still owed allowances by the government for their work particularly in helping fight the Covid-19 pandemic, must be paid their dues within 100 days, the premier said.

Should the prime minister’s plan be implemented, Lesotho would then be on course to break out of the decades-old cycle of low growth, high unemployment and poverty.

 

 

2 Comments
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