Political will: missing link in fight against corruption

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THE Lesotho Times recently carried a story about the abuse of funds by government ministries.

The report by parliament’s Public Accounts Committee said some government departments were willingly violating financial regulations.

Some of these abuses have been reported to the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences.

In yet another story the paper reported that Lesotho had dropped to position 130 out of 183 countries in the Ease of Doing Business Survey carried out by the World Bank.

The report said registration procedures in Lesotho “are so burdensome that entrepreneurs may have to bribe officials to speed up the process”.

These reports confirm what we have known all along — that corruption is rife in Lesotho.

But what else does the World Bank survey reveal about public service delivery in Lesotho?

An Asian bank defines corruption as the behaviour of officials in the public and private sectors in which they improperly and unlawfully enrich themselves by misusing their positions of trust.

The global economy has been hit by a financial crisis and Lesotho has not been immune to this crisis.

Corruption indubitably lowers investor confidence in Lesotho.

Investors will simply not risk putting their money in a corrupt economy.

Consequently corruption affects Lesotho’s already declining economic growth rate which is devastating in a country that suffers high levels of poverty.

The reality is that there are few Basotho-owned companies that are registered in Lesotho.

The fact that people are willing to bribe officials sends a message that something is seriously wrong about the efficiency of public services in Lesotho.

If people are going to the extent of bribing officials to register a company in a week this shows there is room to improve the efficiency of public services in Lesotho.

An efficient registration process will encourage both foreign and local businesses to set up projects in Lesotho.

As the number of companies increases in this country, not only will unemployment be decreased, but this could also result in an increased tax base resulting in more government revenue.

This is certainly what the government is dying for at the moment due to the dwindling revenue from the Southern African Customs Union which accounts for 55 percent of government revenue.

There is a growing number of competing needs for the economy of Lesotho which can significantly be met if the necessary discipline in the public sector is embraced.

In order to avoid drastic fiscal measures such as cutting expenditures e.g, tertiary students’ bursary support, it is important for government ministers to lead by example by exercising self-control in the manner they use public funds.

Cutting such expenditures could be counter-productive and plunge the national policy into a vicious cycle because it would undermine good initiatives such as free primary school education.

The economy needs skilled labour in order to reach certain ideal and sustainable levels of productivity and human capital development.

Education is one way of reaching such an end.

However, offering free primary school education is like throwing a punch half-way. A full throw would involve supporting students until they complete their university education.

The fight against corruption can be won if leaders lead by example.

No one can fight against a bad phenomenon if such an individual has a skeleton in his own closet.

●Sello Mokoatsi is an economics student at the National University of Lesotho.

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