We must root out corruption and indiscipline: GS Pheko
NEWLY appointed Government Secretary (GS) Lerotholi Pheko is a man in a hurry.
The 53-year-old, who replaced former incumbent Moahloli Mphaka on 1 September 2020, is on a mission to restore public confidence in the civil service.
He hopes to achieve this by rooting out corruption and indiscipline among civil servants. However, he does not have much time because Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro’s administration’s tenure is only up to 2022 when the next elections are due.
The Sunday Express crew found him in a relaxed mood sipping honey tea and lemon when it visited him at his Maseru offices this week.
“Relax, I don’t have Coronavirus,” he jokingly said as he ushered us into his offices. Once inside, the jokes were put aside and he assumed a more serios demeanour as he contemplated the enormity of the task ahead of him in his new post as government secretary.
“This (appointment) is the beginning of a long and tough journey. The public service has been degraded, resulting in poor service delivery. We have to work hard to restore the nation’s confidence in the public service.
“I want civil servants to work hard. The prime minister made it clear to me that he wants results. I know what this means because I have worked with him before.”
Daunting as it may seem, the task is by no means an impossible one, more so for Mr Pheko whose professional career as an accountant and in politics with the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) has always been results-driven.
He was also taught the value of hard work from an early age by his mother who was a house wife. Mr Pheko grew up in Maphutsing, Mohale’s Hoek which is also home to the famous female famo music group, Bo-‘m’e ba Maphutsing.
“My father was a miner. My mother was a very hard-working housewife who had no time to be idle.
“I attended Maphutsing Primary School and Bethesda Secondary School in the same (Maphutsing) village.”
After completing his Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (COSC), Mr Pheko packed his bags for Maseru where he enrolled with Centre for Accounting Studies (CAS) where he later qualified as a chartered accountant.
He obtained his qualification while working in the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA)’s accounts department.
He also had a stint at the Lesotho Evangelical Church of Southern Africa (LESCA)-owned Scott Hospital in Morija.
At the turn of the millennium, the soft-spoken Mr Pheko joined the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) as its chief finance officer until the political bug bit him.
He joined the All Basotho Convention (ABC) party at its formation in 2006.
Former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane founded the party after dumping the then Pakalitha Mosisili-led Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).
“I was appointed Development Planning principal secretary (PS) when the ABC first came to power in 2012. It was still a new ministry as it had just been separated from the finance ministry. We had so much to do in terms of developing the systems, recruiting and structuring the ministry to fulfil its mandate.”
It was there that Mr Pheko first worked with Dr Majoro who replaced Professor Maboee Moletsane as development planning minister after the latter died in October 2012.
“When I first appointed, I work with then Development Planning Minister, Professor Moletsane. He passed on and Dr Majoro came in as the new minister. We worked together until 2015 when the government changed. I stayed on for another three months until the expiry of my contract.
“I left the government and later joined the Lesotho Parenthood Planned Association (LPPA) as its chief executive officer in 2017. I only left when my contract expired on 9 February 2020.
“Then prime minister (Thabane) appointed me as Labour and Employment PS on 1 March 2020. I worked there until 30 April 2020 when I was transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations on 1 May 2020. I served there as PS until my latest appointment as government secretary.”
“I want to restore the integrity of the public service and ensure that it delivers as expected,” Mr Pheko said of his new mandate.
“The prime minister has established a unit within his office to monitor performance and delivery. He (Majoro) has made it clear to me that he wants results.
“We have to deal with indiscipline in the public service because indiscipline leads to poor performance and corruption. We need to get the issue of discipline right and introduce performance tracking systems which will help us to tackle corruption head-on.”
Difficult as this may seem, Mr Pheko believes he has what it takes to deliver. After all, as he says, his whole professional and political career has been about delivering.
In 2009, he was co-opted into the national executive committee (NEC) of ABC as the publicity secretary. Three years later, he was tasked with the huge responsibility of spearheading the ABC’s 2012 elections campaign.
The party went on to win 26 constituency seats and another four proportional representation seats, giving it a combined total of 30 seats.
It came second to the Mosisili-led Democratic Congress (DC) which garnered 48 seats.
However, the ABC was able to form the new government after combining its seats with those of the LCD (26) and the Basotho National Party (five).
The ABC success showed that Mr Pheko was capable of producing results.
Even when he worked at the LRA, LPPA and other organisations, results were all that mattered hence his unwavering faith that he will again rise to the occasion in his new post as government secretary.
“The LPPA was not only results-orientated but also standards-based. The LRA was also results-orientated.
“In my new assignment, I will work to ensure that my immediate supervisees (principal secretaries) understand our mandate. We have to work hard to restore the nation’s confidence in the public service. We have to produce results.”
Mr Pheko expressed confidence that his task would be made easier by the recent appointments of new PSs. He said Dr Majoro had assembled a good team of PSs with the right blend of qualifications, experience and youth.
“I believe this is a good team and we will achieve a lot. There are a lot of challenges including the serious threat posed by Covid-19. The disease will not go away anytime soon. We will have to live with it and the economic impact will be massive. We (public service) must therefore work hard to assist the government to achieve economic growth and stability,” Mr Pheko said.
And if his professional experience falls short, he can always count on his Christian faith to see him through.
“One needs to tread very carefully and make well-informed decisions that will provide guidance to the PSs. We also need to support the cabinet to make the right decisions that will help the country develop.
“But then again, one should not trust on his own wisdom and strength. He should trust in the Lord and always seek his guidance.
“I strongly believe in the power of God. I believe that He has chosen me for a time such as this. He would not have given me this responsibility only for me to fail.
“Motho o tšoanetse hore u utloe Molimo pele ho batho (one must hear from God first and from humans thereafter,” said Mr Pheko, a devout Evangelical Church member.