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PAC promises “fireworks” as sessions resume

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

PARLIAMENT’S Public Accounts Committee (PAC) says there will be “fireworks” next week when it begins interrogating civil servants in connection with the use of public funds in the 2016/17 financial year.

PAC chairperson Teboho Sekata said his committee expects to resume sessions after the winter break next week. He said they will continue from where the PAC left off under the leadership of Movement for Economic Change (MEC) leader Selibe Mochoboroane who relinquished the post following his May 2020 appointment by new Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro to the post of Development Planning minister.

Under Mr Mochoboroane’s three-year leadership, the PAC made headlines by exposing high-profile corruption in government institutions.

Mr Sekata acknowledged that it would not be easy following in Mr Mochoboroane’s footsteps.

He however, said he was up to the challenge and was confident of doing well as long as PAC members were united and worked together as a team inspite of their different political affiliations.

Mr Sekata said his committee has been working behind the scenes since 28 June 2020 in preparation for the official PAC sessions expected to begin next week after the parliament building has been fumigated in line with public health regulations to fight the spread of the deadly Coronavirus (Covid-19).

“There will be fireworks when we begin our sessions next week as civils servants will have to account for misappropriated public funds as reported in the Auditor General Lucy Liphafa’s 2017 consolidated financial statements,” Mr Sekata told the Sunday Express this week.

“Those who were interrogated in previous sessions are not off the hook because they will still be summoned to report progress on issues which were raised by the PAC.”

He said some of the outstanding issues in the AG’s reports for the 2016/2017 financial year include the failure by some state-owned enterprises (SOEs) to repay loans and interest to the government.

SOEs like the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC), Econet Telecom Lesotho and the Water and Sewage Company (WASCO) are among those said to be in arrears.

According to the AG’s report, the three enterprises collectively defaulted on loans amounting to over M1 billion between 2016 and 2017.

The report also raised concerns about the possible misuse of public funds where close to M500 000 was spent on catering costs alone at the April 2016 state funeral of former cabinet minister, Ntsukunyane Mphanya.

According to the AG’s report, catering could have cost only M200 000 if the procurement process had been transparent.

“My audit established that an advance of M498 483 from the Contingencies Fund was granted to the Ministry of Home Affairs in April 2016 for an official funeral of a former minister, Honourable Ntsukunyane Mphanya.

“Catering costs amounted to M427 852,90 for 4662 people. This high cost could have been avoided if the option of catering services was weighed against the option of buying food for the bereaved family…If five to ten cows were bought for the family at M10 000 each, then the cost of meat would range from M50 000 to M100 000 and groceries and vegetables at around M80 000 to M100 000,. So, the government would have spent a maximum of M200 000 only,” the AG’s report states.

Mr Sekata vowed that his committee will also work “more closely than before” with the police and Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offence (DCEO) to ensure all corruption cases are prosecuted including that of Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase’s husband, Thabiso, and son, Teboho.

The duo is accused of stealing M3, 6 million meant for old age pensions. Despite their arrest on 13 December 2017 in connection with the cash which disappeared from the Mafeteng Post Office in December 2016, the duo is yet to be tried. It is not clear why the trial has not been held.

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