By: Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MASERU – The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offenses (DCEO) is inviting to young people to join the fight against corruption, recognizing the role they play in shaping the future of their nation.

This comes to light during the Democracy Works Foundation (DWF) training in Maseru.

The training brings together young people and women from Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) as well as civil society organizations (CSOs). This training follows one that took place last week in two districts; Botha-Bothe and Leribe.

DCEO Chief Corruption Prevention Officer Lefu Ramashamole says the Prevention of Corruption and Economic Offenses Act,  1999 as amended in 2004 penalizes various forms of corruption, including bribery related to contracts and tenders, conflicts of interest, bribery in auctions, fraudulent practices involving public revenue, and the possession of unexplained wealth.

He explains that corruption occurs due to various factors, including having inside information or key information of the institutions; knowledge of the systems; knowledge of vulnerable areas in the systems and procedures; ability to manipulate and create the opportunities and deficiencies in laws, regulations and systems.

He attributes the perpetuation of corruption to “moral degeneration” on some of the citizens.

For his part, the Chief Investigations Officer (CIO) at DCEO Tau Phasumane the DCEO is “overwhelmed” with corruption cases.

Phasumane urges participants to raise awareness among their peers but also fosters a culture of integrity and accountability.

He urges participants to strengthen commitment to ethical practices.

“It does not matter how many laws, how many regulations you put in place there will always be corruption.  How do we curb this? Accountability- expedite the processes and arrest people [found guilty of corruption offense],” he stresses.

‘Mathabo Mojau from the Procurement Policy and Advisory Department (PPDA) says procurement is not only confined to the government but can be everywhere where there is strategic buying.

She says procurement goes as far as monitoring an asset from acquisition to disposal within an organization.

Mojau says it is important that the organizations identify key things to properly undertake  procurement processes.

“First, you need to assess the need with the specifications of the department, as some may want things just because they think they deserve them. [If in government] the government’s mandate is to save costs. After understanding the need, go out into the market and learn how many suppliers offer the required product. Then, compare the costs and develop a strategy for procurement,” she said.

In the government, she says there is inconsistent flow of information and work processes as far as managing relationships with suppliers is concerned, which she explains is done through timely payments.

This does not happen well, as it has been the case with many businesses complaining about the delays in payments.

About 90% of the corruption cases dealt by the DCEO are procurement related.

“The country experienced misuse and misappropriation of public funds,” she says, adding that over 60% to 70% of the government budget is spent on procurement.

Supported by the European Union (EU) and the Financial Services Volunteer Corp (FSVC), the DWF’s ‘Putting Youth and Women at the Centre of Inclusive Economic Growth (PYWEIG) programme capacitates youth and women in interventions to strengthen inclusivity, transparency,  corrupt-free, responsive, good governance and policy processes around socio-economic development, employability and policy development.

One of the attendees, Khothatso Tseka mentions that while she has learned a lot about crime and corruption, there is “slim” hope as it has proven difficult to tackle corruption. She says she learned that new ways of perpetuating it always emerge.

Tseka says corruption is a problem in the country and that citizens need to reflect on the direction the country is heading if it is not addressed.

“Where will we be in the next five years? What does corruption say about the youth of Lesotho, about the unemployment rate, and the health of the citizens? Corruption affects even the health of the people. You will find that one person has hoarded money for themselves while others are suffering.

“Now it’s winter, and some people don’t even have adequate food or fuel to warm their houses. Corruption is affecting everybody, yet some regard it as a means and way of living. So, this training left me worried rather than happy,” she states.