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Whole-hearted fight against graft overdue

A CONSULTANCY firm has been hired to help re-define Lesotho’s anti-corruption strategy.

De Speville and Associates will advise on how the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO), the country’s anti-corruption watchdog, can strengthen its capacity to fight corruption.

We believe this process was long overdue.

Since the DCEO busted the corrupt duo of Reatile Mochebelele and Letlafuoa Molapo, the former Lesotho Highlands Water Commission bosses, its cases of success have been few and far between.

When pushed for more success stories the DCEO likes to brandish the case of the former National Assembly clerk Matlamukele Matete who was also convicted for graft.

Given that Lesotho was ranked a lowly 78 out of 178 countries under Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2010, the DCEO’s record of success is appalling.

The DCEO’s director for public education and corruption prevention, Litelu Ramokhoro, says there is a general perception that “we are not doing enough to fight corruption”.

He is right.

Such perceptions are born out of the fact that the anti-corruption agency itself does not have much to show for the eight years it has been in existence.

One does not need a scientific survey to know that the majority of people in this country believe that corruption is spreading rather than ebbing.

There is a general perception that tenders are being rigged to enrich senior government officials, connected companies and business people.

Every year the auditor general’s report brings new evidence that some government officials are “playing poker” with public funds.

And at the last count the amount of money that the auditor general reported missing from state coffers ran into several billions of maloti.

Yet no one has been prosecuted for such blatant corruption.

Is the DCEO telling the people that corruption in this country ended with the prosecution of Mochebelele, Molapo and Matete?

We ask because it has been long since we had a high profile corruption case in this country yet there is evidence that graft has actually reached the highest office in this country.

Five officials in Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s office were recently suspended for alleged corruption.

It is important to note that at the forefront of that investigation was a foreign firm and not our DCEO.

As we write this more private companies have been hired to investigate government departments and ministries.

Could the powers-that-be have come to the conclusion that the DCEO is not up to the task?

Or could it be that they believe there is some truth in allegations that DCEO officers have joined the gravy-train and are cutting deals with people they should be investigating?

In asking these questions we are not in any way ignoring the DCEO’s genuine internal problems.

That the DCEO is short-staffed and under-resourced is a fact.

Those involved in fighting corruption should not be forced to beg for resources least they become beholden to their benefactors or are tempted to partake in corrupt activities themselves.

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