MASERU — The Minister of Finance, Timothy Thahane, has blamed the teething problems of the government’s new financial management system on the people whom he says are still to fully understand how it works.
Thahane said the problem was not with the system but with some civil servants who were operating it.
Suppliers and contractors say the new management programme, Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS), has delayed their payments.
Some government employees who are paid through cheques have been struggling to get their salaries since the programme was launched on April 10 to replace the old financial system GOFIS.
In an interview this week Thahane insisted that IFMIS has not failed.
He said the problem is with some people who have to “fully appreciate how the system works”.
“It’s not the system that is not working properly. Most of the problems that people are talking about are a result of employees still trying to understand how it works. They are bound to make some mistakes because it is a new system,” Thahane said.
Thahane’s statements came after the Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili criticised the finance ministry for implementing the system before they were ready.
Mosisili said there was no reason for the ministry of finance to start operating the IFMIS before it was ready.
“Why did you launch it when clearly you were not ready and are we getting our money’s worth by paying the consultants who are assisting Lesotho with the implementation of the system?”
He said the problems that were being encountered were a clear indication that people had not fully understood how it works.
“However good it may be, it has not been taught, unless it is well understood.”
But Thahane says part of the problem lies squarely with the people operating the system.
“There are some people (civil servants) who have never used a computer before. They have never worked with a computer before. Now you are saying they must use a computer for the first time to operate a new system,” Thahane said.
“Some are stumbling because of fright because they have not come to grips with the operations of both the computer and the financial system.”
He said the problem was with the shortage of trained people.
“At the beginning we had planned for the training of about 600 people but some people did not come, so in the end we only had about 350 people.”
The government had also lost some workers with important skills to the private sector and parastatals, he said.
“We have a serious lack of people with IT skills.”
Thahane said the government has since intensified training on the system adding that there are currently 1 300 civil servants at various levels of training.
“We have asked the consultant to increase the training of trainers. We are making good progress.”
He said despite the current problems that IFMIS was facing he was sure that the government of Lesotho had “got real value for money from the consultant and the provider of the systems”.
He however admitted that there were still people who had not been paid but insists that the majority had received their monies.
“We have paid most of the people but of course you get a big shout about those who have not been paid.
“These are teething problems that you experience every time you have a new system. It’s not unusual. It is not smooth but it is getting there.”
Meanwhile the government has established a steering committee to deal with the problems facing the system.
The chairman of the steering committee who is also the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Mosito Khethisa, said there was nothing wrong with the system and its implementation must continue.