THE Department of Standards and Quality Assurance in the Ministry of Trade and Industry says it is confident that the proposed standards body will be operational before the end of 2019.
The standards body was necessitated by the Lesotho Standards Institution Act of 2014.
The ministry recently facilitated consultative meetings for the Lesotho Standards Institute (LSI) board of directors for the development of the corporate governance and human resource manuals for the body.
These are being developed with the assistance of experts from the British Standards Institution (BSI) as well as the Botswana Bureau of Standards (BBS) and the process paves way for the eventual operationalisation of the body.
The director of the standards department in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Molebatsi Rabolinyane, said they are making notable progress, although at a slow pace towards setting up the proposed standards body.
He further said defining the role and functions of the proposed standards body as well as its organisational structure have been completed.
The project is supported by the African Development Bank under its Economic Diversification Support Project (EDSP).
The project is housed within the Private Sector Competitiveness and Economic Diversification Support Project (PSCEDP).
“I believe we are now getting somewhere in terms of developing the standards body,” Mr Rabolinyane said.
“Yes, it may have taken us a while to get where we are but I am optimistic mostly because the government is showing serious commitment to the cause. I think it should be operational before the end of 2019.”
He said a functional standards body will contribute to the country’s economic development by supporting industrial and product development through market access.
He said corporations are reluctant to invest in a country that does not have regulation of standards. He further said Lesotho’s emerging agro-processing and water bottling industries are some of the indicators of the country’s readiness to have a standards body.
Talking about the recent discussions on human resources and corporate governance manuals, Mr Rabolinyane said the handbook would among other things set guidelines on the nature of employment contracts staffers would be hired on.
“What we are discussing with the experts in these meetings are two issues; development of the human resource handbook and the corporate governance for the proposed body.
“On corporate governance, we are looking at how the relationship between the body and the department will be like, the reporting mechanisms will be like.
“You may have observed that there is often conflicts between a parastatal and the parent ministries due to unclear mandates of the two. So, you need the body to be as independent as possible, while not forgetting its relationship to its parent ministry.
“In particular, this type of an organisation we are setting up will be different from other countries around the world. Some are parastatals, government agencies, corporations, private companies, and some are public companies, which is what we are setting up.
“After this meeting, we will be in a position to hire staffers who will work for the body and we are close to hiring the chief executive officer for the institute as we are currently finalising job descriptions,” Mr Rabolinyane said.
He said acquiring a CEO would facilitate hiring of the rest of the body’s staffers going forward.
Asked why they decided to solicit the assistance of BSI and BBS, he said they wanted to benchmark on the best practice models, especially since they want to set up a public company that is close to BSI.
“The advantage of starting late is that you will be able to adopt best practices already being implemented and you will avoid many challenges that those who started before you encountered
“We should end up with a lean, highly effective organisation. We are not expecting to have a staff complement of over 30 people,” Mr Rabolinyane said.