LESOTHO’S coffers have been perforated by shameless civil servants trusted to run government procurement departments.
These corrupt officers have been allegedly stuffing their bank accounts with taxpayers’ money fraudulently siphoned from the treasury through a brazen procurement scam.
As detailed in our lead story this week, procurement officers are suspected of surreptitiously handing government business to their own briefcase companies or those fronted by their relatives and friends.
These companies then supply goods to the government at highly inflated prices.
The suspects have been taking advantage of a government regulation that allows procurement officers to purchase goods and services under M100 000 without going through the normal tender process.
The government has ordered a forensic audit into the rot.
By the time the probe ends, we are sure the audit would have unearthed details of millions of maloti spirited away by corrupt government officers.
This is the last thing that a country run on a shoe-string budget like ours needs.
Already in the clutches of poverty, this country does not need civil servants who drill holes into its coffers.
Does this explain why some of Lesotho’s well-heeled are believed to be government suppliers?
Looking at how the government has been made to pay, in some instances, at 10 times the actual price of goods and services, we will not be surprised.
Yet the person who suffers most is the ordinary man whose interests are supposed to be served by the government officers.
Because millions are siphoned by corrupt officers, the government is left with little or nothing for critical needs as well as development projects.
It’s outrageous that such shady activities have been allowed to flourish undetected.
Where were the directors of those departments?
Are we to believe it’s not been the work of only a few bad apples?
We trust the forensic audit will flush out all the culprits.
And it must not end there.
They must go to jail — like happens anywhere else where corruption is not tolerated.
We believe Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s government has the determination to fight corruption within its ranks and in the country at large.
The Lesotho Highlands Water Project bribery scandal, for example, has earned Lesotho plaudits for doing what is seldom expected of African countries — tackling graft head-on.
Yet that high-profile case alone will not automatically rid our country of corruption.
We must look beyond the mere punishment of crooked civil servants such as those employed in government procurement and other departments.
What’s urgently needed is a review of the systems that have proven so easy to manipulate.
If the government’s procurement system can be breached by a handful of officers then it’s not worth keeping.
Weak systems nurture corruption.
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