Auditor-General Lucy Liphafa has released yet another damning report on the state of the country’s finances.
The 2008/9 report, which was tabled in parliament by Finance Minister Leketekete Ketso, last week makes depressing reading.
It lists a litany of abuses of government funds by senior civil servants.
In her report Liphafa issued a disclaimer suggesting that she could not offer an opinion about the government’s financial condition largely because the books were in a mess.
She says there “were material uncertainties within the accounts” to the extent that she “was not able to obtain sufficient and appropriate audit evidence to provide a basis for an audit opinion”.
That is a damning assessment.
Sadly, this is not the first time that the Auditor-General has issued such a disclaimer and damning report.
The issues she raises in the report are not new.
We have heard about these irregularities before.
What is disturbing for us however is that in spite of these damning audit reports year-after-year, there seems to be no political will to stop the rot.
Liphafa admits as much in her report.
She says there has been a “low response to audit recommendations and weak enforcement mechanisms resulting in similar audit queries year in year out”.
That is sad.
Take for instance the systematic irregularities in the procurement processes within government ministries.
The report says there were serious irregularities involving the procurement of tenders within the Ministry of Health, for instance.
Regulations pertaining to the procurement of tenders were not complied with.
“Tender documents were sold to bidders at different prices and in some cases given free of charge.
“That is contrary to Public Procurement Regulations 2007, section 23(1),” she says.
At the Ministry of Defence and National Security the report says a total of M23 738.50 was collected at Makoanyane Hospital in June 2010 but only M5 964 was deposited into the bank leaving a total of M17 774.50 unaccounted for.
The report says patients at the hospital were discharged without settling their bills and no follow-ups were made to recover outstanding amounts.
The ministry also failed to stop payment of full salaries to staff on study leave in breach of government regulations that say civil servants must get half-pay while on study leave.
Even officers who had resigned continued to get paid during the year under review.
The report says two MPs got monthly housing allowances of M2 000 each but were occupying government houses for free.
Liphafa says this was highly irregular.
But what we found most shocking were the irregular disbursements of bursaries to orphans and vulnerable children.
The report says the Ministry of Education and Training awarded bursaries to children who did not qualify.
From a sample of 78, 17 percent did not qualify as they were deemed “not genuinely needy as their parents were employed”.
The report also highlighted the case of a high school in Mafeteng that claimed M43 480 for boarding and feeding when it did not have any boarding facilities.
What the report suggests is a culture of thievery that is eating into Basotho society.
We do not want to believe this is a case of sheer incompetence in failing to account. There is a pattern to this madness.
The coalition government under Prime Minister Thomas Thabane must demonstrate political will to tackle graft within the civil service.
Their first task should be to put in place adequate and effective mechanisms to plug the holes and ensure there is no pilferage of public funds.
The government must restore people’s confidence that public funds are being managed properly.