MASERU — The Thomas Thabane-led coalition government has ordered senior civil servants to declare their assets.
This is part of efforts to root out rampant corruption in the government.
The Lesotho Times has been informed that forms have been given to MPs, principal secretaries and directors to declare their wealth.
The Information Director in Prime Minister Thabane’s office, ’Malisebo ’Mokela, told the Lesotho Times on Monday that the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) and the Ministry of Public Service are working together to ensure that ministers comply with the law.
However, this paper is reliably informed that the process is yet to start due to technical problems.
DCEO spokesperson Litelu Ramokhoro yesterday said the anti-corruption body had only met with officials from the public service ministry to agree on how they will do the job.
“I cannot say we have started but we met to discuss how to remove some technical problems we encountered in the past,” Ramokhoro said.
He however declined to explain in detail the technical problems they faced in the past.
The Public Service Regulations of 2008 says officers should, within 30 days of their appointment, declare shares and other financial interests in private or public companies and other corporate entities recognised by law.
They are also supposed to have declared their directorships or partnerships, remunerative work outside the public service, consultancies and retainerships, sponsorships, gifts, ownership and other interests in land and property whether inside or outside Lesotho.
“An officer who fails to disclose an interest in terms of this regulation or wilfully provides incorrect or misleading information commits a misconduct, and if found guilty is liable to disciplinary action or a criminal charge or both,” reads part of the regulations.
The DCEO Act was amended in 2006 to include the clause that compels senior government officials to declare their assets.
Ramokhoro said the implementation of the law was delayed because the DCEO lacked capacity.
The DCEO did not have enough manpower to enforce the law, he said.
Ministers and other senior public officials who took an oath of office last month are supposed to have declared their assets and interests within 30 days of their appointment.
These officials include MPs, Principal Secretaries, holders of statutory positions and directors.
Today is the 34th day after the appointment of substantial ministers but none of them has made any declaration.
Macaefa Billy, the Lesotho Workers Party leader, yesterday said he would remind Thabane of the promises they made concerning the declaration of assets when they were still together in the ABC.
Billy said now that the ABC is in power it should ensure that the promise is kept.
“Our stance as Lesotho Workers Party is that public officials, including ministers and MPs, should by law declare their assets and financials and other interests before taking oath of office,” Billy said.
“There should be a specialised commission with enough expertise to investigate assets and interests of people who are running for public office.”
Billy said even when an official leaves office they should declare how much they have accumulated during their tenure.
“That way we will be able to keep corruption at bay,” he said.
“If we do not establish a commission to investigate the outgoing officials we will not help the current government to check itself against corruption.”
Billy said knowing the officials’ wealth at entry and exit will enable this country to effectively fight corruption by those at the top.
The Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC)leader, Kelebone Maope, said the government should make sure that there is a specific law requiring MPs, ministers and other top officials to declare their assets and interests.
“We will wholly support that move,” Maope said.
He said currently there is no specific law requiring public officers to declare their assets.
He said an MP could bring a Bill in parliament through a Private Member’s Bill provision but such moves failed in the past.
Also neither of the MPs has declared their assets.
Parliament Standing Orders and the amended anti-corruption law that established the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) require MPs to declare their assets.
The suggestion that public officials should declare their assets was first pushed by the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) leader Lekhetho Rakuoane in parliament in 2006 but the ruling majority, then the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) MPs, outvoted him.
Rakuoane is now the deputy Speaker of parliament.
In 2009 the then main opposition party, All Basotho Convention (ABC), pushed, without success, for a law compelling MPs and other public office holders to declare their assets before taking office.
The ABC wanted parliament to compel all legislators and senior government officials to declare their assets before they come into office.
The declaration would include all investments, fixed and non-fixed assets.
They wanted the MPs and senior government officials to declare the source of any wealth that they accrued before taking office.
They also wanted the MPs to explain the source of the wealth that they would have accrued during their tenure in parliament.
Billy, who was also the ABC secretary general at that time, said MPs promised to start the “real push within the next two weeks”.
“If you look at some MPs and government officials you will notice that the wealth that they have accumulated has no relation to their salaries. This clearly shows that something is not right,” Billy said then.
“Forcing everyone who wants to hold public office to declare their assets will reduce corruption.”
The ABC had plans to rope in other parties like Basotho Congress Party (BCP), Basotho National Party (BNP), Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) and the erstwhile Alliance of Congress Parties (ACP).
Rakuoane suggested then that scattered pieces of laws could be used to effect the declaration of assets.
“There is also another law published in the Government Gazette which clearly states that MPs and top government officials must declare their assets,” Rakuoane said.
“Also an act of Parliament which established the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) was amended to accommodate a clause that compels MPs to declare their assets.”
Rakuoane said there was an urgent need to enforce the laws to deal with corruption in the public sector.
“These laws are just white elephants doing nothing for us,” Rakuoane said.