The kingdom of Lesotho is one of the countries in the world whose corruption perception seems to be escalating daily with youths among the loudest crying for an end to corruption and abuse of public office.
According to the 2018 transparency international report, Lesotho is ranked 78 out of 180 countries on corruption. The country is not immune to some of the facts about Africa on corruption, that one in four people pays a bribe to get basic services daily.
Prime Minister Thomas Thabane in seemingly regular rhetoric has joined the world leaders in denouncing corruption in Lesotho, arguing it is the country’s worst enemy after HIV/AIDS. However little can be said about his government’s role towards curbing corruption if not perpetuating the rot in the public service.
But since live broadcast of Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee proceedings, there has been a series of revelations on state of abuse of public resources, to misappropriation of funds and claims of bribery involving some of the top government officials in key institutions.
The committee has slammed the two country’s two law enforcement agencies—police and anti-corruption body— for failing to act on rampant corruption claims. Most of which the Committee’s Chairperson Selibe Mochoboroane argues are exposed during his committee’s proceedings.
Police and Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offence are the responsible bodies in arresting corruption within the country, but of recent times they have been slammed by this parliamentary committee for sleeping on the job.
Corruption in Lesotho is mostly elitist and occurs in various forms or another and affects people in power and those in the grassroots, thereby making it hard for it to end or seem to decline.
Webs of actors across the spectrum are in most instances involved to pilfer resources from the state for private gain.
A lot of big money in government tenders and other lucrative deals are pocketed by the very same people who took oath of office to serve and protect interests of the public.
Lesotho’s young people aged 18-35 are the most hard-hit and affected members of society by corruption.
This is despite unemployment rate among the youth skyrocketing more than 40 percent. Many who are being enrolled in government or state-owned entities are handed jobs as party patronage meant to solidify political party influence among youth.
In most instances, my peers either school going or graduates experience corruption in one form or another. It has been a serious norm for government entities to overlook appropriate educational qualifications and employment entry for youth in the country and force employment through submission of political card membership.
One major prevalent corruption problem hit the National Manpower Development Secretariat—a government student loan facility—where students receive their stipends and or allowances late due to alleged lack of funds albeit allegations of staffers using the loan facility funding for their own private gains.
Challenges docking the student loan facility caused among others by corruption maladministration of the institution and failure to collect debts from former students is crippling the institution.
Owing to lack of funds, students seeking to enrol in South Africa universities, the loan facility has said are not going to be awarded sponsorships from next year 2020.
For students enrolling into local universities, the number is going to be cut substantially by the loan facility, which may exacerbate youth unemployment and instability with more youths left in desperation and vulnerable to anything.
However, amid the bleak picture facing youth seeking funding to further their studies, the ruling elite enjoys luxurious international flights when travelling on government business under the guise of seeking foreign investors.
In the auditor general report for the financial year ended 31 march 2018, Lesotho government is recorded to have expended more than M50 million on international fares alone.
The huge entourage that costs the country a lot of money, some of which could be used in developing and creating youth projects that will help alleviate youth unemployment and or send more youth to university is corruptly syphoned from the public purse.
More money is also spent locally on travel by government officials. Usage of high fuel-guzzling vehicles in a large fleet of cars in government is also a problem.
Some these vehicles termed official vehicles are unnecessary or rather they are not properly utilised to serve the interest of the public, but used for personal needs of the officials and even their political parties’ campaigns. Some are even used within political party infighting battles on a daily bases putting a heavyweight on the public purse.
The same report of the auditor general reflects that in the same financial year ended 31 March 2018, Lesotho government spent more than M350 million on vehicles maintenance and repairs, fuel and lubricants, short-term-hire, private hire, motor mileage, fares local subsistence local and freight charges.