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Parly warned against partisan politics

Pascalinah Kabi

FORMER legislator, Pelele Letsoela of the Basotho Democratic National Party (BDNP) has warned the National Assembly against repeating the mistakes of the past legislatures by protecting their “comrades” fingered in corruption scandals by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Mr Letsoela said that partisan politics in parliament had rendered the National Assembly incapable of holding the executive accountable and this had also rendered the PAC’s findings and recommendations ineffective in the fight against corruption.

Mr Letsoela, who chaired the bulk of the PAC proceedings during the eight parliament, said the PAC’s effectiveness lay with the parliament itself.

The current PAC, chaired by Selibe Mochoboroane, has unearthed deeply rooted corruption and other irregularities in the civil service.

Among the ongoing investigations, the PAC discovered that the Ministry of Education and Training had for several years failed to maintain human resource records, proper accounting and reconciliation systems resulting in a situation where millions out of its M1.7 billion annual wage bill for teachers were spent paying ghost teachers.

The committee further discovered that the Ministry of Public Works and Transport could have lost M6.7 million through unprocedural payments made to two construction companies – Golden Stone International Engineering and Bafani Construction after the two won tenders to renovate Maseru Central and Thaba-Tseka Correctional Service.

This is not the first time the PAC has exposed the rot in the civil service as in 2011, the PAC discovered that the Government Celebrations Committee had spent M2.5 million on the state-funded funeral of assistant Minister Lekhetho Phakisi in July 2007.

Payment vouches captured under the then Government of Lesotho Financial Information Service (GOLFIS) system show that only M1, 122, 156.56 was used and that there were no documents to support how the remaining M1, 441, 371.38 was used.

In a recent interview with the Sunday Express, Mr Letsoela said the effectiveness of PAC findings in rooting out corruption in the civil service depended on parliament which was unfortunately divided along party lines.

“The PAC does not have powers to arrest people. It just makes recommendations to the relevant authorities who must follow due processes in order to implement such recommendations.

“Only the law enforcement agencies are tasked with ensuring that suspects are arrested and put before the courts of law for prosecution,” Mr Letsoela said.

“This is not the first time the PAC is unearthing rot in the civil service and probably not the last. From 2012 to 2015, I was the acting chairperson of the PAC under Ntate Malebo’s supervision. Our report was tabled in parliament but it was never adopted so it was as good as non-existent.

“Until 2012, most of the PACs produced very shallow reports owing to the tradition of partisan politics in parliament. Again, you would find that even if the reports were strong enough, the PAC would find resistance in parliament as parties wanted to protect their own comrades fingered in the reports, forgetting that their primary mandate was to oversee that the executive’s operations were within the constraints of law.

“This current parliament needs to tread carefully and avoid repeating mistakes of the past because these reports must be passed and adopted so that the executive can be tested on its effectiveness to implement decisions of the parliament,” Mr Letsoela said.

He said his committee found that at least M500 000 was spent on the upkeep of former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s camels which were donated by the later Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi.

“But when the former prime minister left office in 2012, he took the camels as his personal assets and refused to pay back the money spent on them,” Mr Letsoela said.

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