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Mphaka predicts challenges for standards body

Bereng Mpaki

THE newly launched Lesotho Standards Institution (LSI) could soon run into accountability problems because its management was appointed by the government instead of its board, former board chairperson Sam Mphaka has said.

The appointment of officers by the government is against the principles of good governance, Mr Mphaka said.

The management was appointed in August this year and Mr Mphaka is worried that in the absence of a board, there will be no one to monitor the LSI’s operations.

Mr Mphaka said this in an interview with the Business Journal this week.

His comments come after the disbanding of his board in July this year.

The LSI was launched last week by Trade and Industry minister Thabiso Molapo. It is mandated to aid private sector development by developing and publishing national standards and carrying out product testing activities among others.

But the LSI currently does not have a board after its 11 founding board members were relieved of their duties by the Trade ministry in July this year. The board was initially appointed in February 2018.

The LSI was launched in line with the LSI Act of 2014 which stipulates that office bearers must be appointed by the board. However, in the absence of the board, they were appointed by the Trade and Industry ministry.

Mr Mphaka said this will create accountability challenges.

“Our board’s term was terminated in July this year when we were at a critical stage to commerce recruitment of the chief executive officer and senior management of the LSI,” Mr Mphaka said.

“We were told the ministry going back to the drawing board to address those legal issues on the establishment of the LSI.

“I am concerned about the approach employed to develop the standards body…”

He said the recruitment of LSI staff must have been done in the same manner that was employed to recruit office bearers for the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) in 2004.

“I was part of the founding board members who established the LRA from scratch. Its commissioner general and the other commissioners were recruited through the board, thereby setting the tone for the way the organisation would operate. The LRA is functioning well even today because of the robust and solid foundation.”

He said it was premature for the ministry to terminate the board’s term.

“It was premature for them to disband the board. A standards body is something new and we do not have any prior experience of handling it locally, and I believe we were supposed to at least ensure that its founding CEO has the necessary experience, and its senior management have the necessary competencies.

“It is the same thing we did with the LRA by getting a commissioner general who had the experience in establishing and working in tax collection authorities.

“When it comes to work, there are no theories but practical experience is required. You must know what you are doing.”

For its part, the ministry of trade said in a statement that the LSI did not require a board because it is still in its nominal stages.

“For the board to function properly, it must be elected after the institution has begun its operations. After that, the minister may appoint board of directors based on expertise, skills and merit since this institution is highly specialised…

“However, if the board is elected before the operation of the institution, it is likely that the board will be the one that provides mandates and functions to the institution but that is the responsibility of the minister.

“Currently, the board is not needed as the institution is starting its operations with a few activities but after the institution is fully operational and the office is set up properly, that is when the minister will appoint board members.

“At this stage, due to lack of funds; the LSI is not in a position to bear financial responsibilities of the board,” the statement said.

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