Fraud in public service alarming, says Malebo

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MASERU — Moeketse Malebo, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, says he is shocked by the rate of theft and fraud in the civil service.

The Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) leader spoke to the Lesotho Times days after his committee issued a damning report on the state of the government’s finances.

The report, issued last Friday, says the committee has noted with great concern “the rate at which pilfering and embezzlement of public funds is (growing) alarmingly”.

“Accordingly the Public Accounts Committee has put in place a strategy to require chief accounting officers to disclose shortages, theft, fraud and misuse of public funds they encountered between the audit report at hand and current financial year,”  says the report.

On Tuesday Malebo said the current abuse of public funds was unprecedented.

“There is an increased disregard of financial regulations,” said Malebo who joined the civil service in 1955.

“I remember that when I joined the civil service there was a day I failed to sleep when I could not find two pennies (during reconciliation). At that time corruption was virtually non-existent but that has changed.”

He said while his committee is yet to fully understand why there is an upsurge in white collar crime in the civil service they suspect it was because of poor management and supervision.

“Finance is managed. If you don’t manage it chaotic things will happen.  This is specifically what has happened in this case.”

Malebo, a former minister during the days of the military junta in the ‘80s said the committee would not rule out incompetence for the flagrant disregard of financial regulations by some government employees.

“We suspect that things are moving fast and some civil servants just cannot catch up. Some people have been left behind by the developments.”

But he is quick to point out that most of the cases his committee has encountered are those of civil servants who deliberately tinker with the financial procedures so they can loot government funds.

“In most cases it’s not that they don’t know the procedures or they don’t want to learn but they are just out to illegally benefit from government funds”.

In most cases, he said, the motive is to steal from the government.

The blame for the increase in corruption, Malebo said, lies with the government.

“I really don’t think they are committed to dealing with the rampant corruption in the civil service.

“When the cat is sleeping the mice can play tricks. That is why the young ones we have in the civil service are doing what they want.”

What frustrates Malebo and his team is that cases of government employees involved in corruption are not being solved quickly enough.

That is why the committee is now planning to have meetings with stakeholders like the police, the anti-corruption unit, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the attorney general.

“We have realised we must have a comprehensive approach to this crisis. We need the buy-in of everyone from the government to civic society. Corruption is a huge problem that requires everyone to solve.”

He said the committee realised that instead of just commenting on the Auditor General’s reports it will be better to take a proactive approach.

“The idea is to make the assessment an ongoing process”.

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