GOVERNMENT ministers, members of parliament, principal secretaries, ministry directors and other public officers are now required by law to declare their assets, interests, special gifts and offers to the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO).
According to legal notice No. 8 of 2016 tabled yesterday in the National Assembly by Justice and Correctional Services Minister Moeketse Malebo, the DCEO would be the central registry for public officials’ declared assets.
The legal notice, which was published in a government gazette dated 5 February 2016, will undergo scrutiny in both houses of parliament although it is already operational.
Section 63 of the legal notice headlined “Establishment of a central registry for integrity and declared asset” reads: “(1)The Director-General shall designate (an) officer holding (a) position not below that of a Director or Deputy Director-General as custodian of the records of declared assets, special gifts and offer to public officers, departments and Ministries.
“(2) The officers shall take a special oath before assuming duties in this office by completing a form which shall be in accordance with Form C as set out in Schedule 7.
(3) Information contained in the Central Registry shall only be released with the written authority of the Director-General.”
The explanatory notes state that public officials should indicate the assets they own jointly with their spouse and those owned by their children below 18-years who are not married. Assets that should be declared include those meant for private use and commercial purposes. The list of assets includes: “(a) Cash and deposits in a bank or other financial institution;
“(b) Treasury bills and other similar investments in securities of fixed value issues or guaranteed by the government or agencies of the government or any private institution;
“(c) Interest of money deposited in a bank, building society or financial institution;
“(d) Dividend or other profit from stocks or shares held by a public official in any company or other body corporate;
(e) Interests in businesses that do not contract with government and do not own or control publicly traded securities, other than incidentally and whose stocks and shares are not traded publicly;
(f) Farms for private use or for commercial operation;
(g) Real estate such as buildings and other properties.”
The explanatory notes also state that the forms must be filled every time a public official gets promoted, is demoted, retires/retired, or is transferred from one place to another to assume a different responsibility.
“Failure to submit the declaration within the specified period constitutes breach of Law in terms of the Prevention of Corruption and Economic Offences Act No.5 of 1999 as amended,” it further states, adding “it is a criminal offence for a public official to submit a false declaration or information regarding his assets.”
The DCEO’s spokesperson, ‘Matlhokomelo Senoko, told the Lesotho Times yesterday that the regulations applied to all public servants regardless of rank, adding the legal notice was still subject to amendments by Parliament since it had just been tabled in the august house.
The legal notice is in line with the governing seven-party alliance’s Coalition Agreement which was unveiled by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili in April 2015. Among the agreement’s priorities was to implement legislation obligating public servants to declare their assets.
Part of the Coalition Agreement reads: “The Coalition Government is concerned that the law on the declaration of assets and interests has not been implemented.
“This matter is an important component of transparency and good governance. The Coalition Government will ensure that measures are in place within 12 months for the law relating to the declaration of assets to be complied with.”