Lesotho losses M50 million in dividends

Interviewed by the public accounts committee, finance ministry principal secretary Dr Moeketsi Majoro could not account for the huge sum due for collection.

The money is owed to government by the Central Bank. This follows a disclosure by the audit report of public accounts for the financial year ended March 2003, which is being scrutinised by the parliament’s public accounts committee.

Majoro, who is the chief accounting officer of the ministry of finance and development planning, told the committee he could not say whether the money due to government was collected or not. Such dividends due to government were not declared, sparking a thread of questions as to what happened to the money. But Majoro assured the committee the accounting system was being cleaned up so that proper financial records could be kept. Prior to the year under scrutiny, he said, a process of screening the accounts “was not so clear.”

Despite that he assured the committee that budget processes were now being taken seriously.

It also emerged during the proceedings that the finance ministry incurred huge losses in excess expenditures at the department of planning.

During the period, about M4 million was also discovered missing.

The money should have been collected from Lesotho Bank and deposited into the government account. In one instance, the department incurred an excess expenditure of over M2 million, instead of the budgeted M358,000.

This was allocated for vehicles maintenance at the department. Also quizzed about such difference, Majoro could not clearly account for the increase.

Another excess at planning noted was that the department spent M17 million as payment for expenses for government-sponsored students in tertiary institutions.

It also emerged that about M10 million was not accounted for when the sales tax department was taken over by the newly established Lesotho Revenue Authority. Majoro said some records were not available to account for the discrepancy.

In another development, a sum of M2,3 million due to the Post Office rent collection was diverted to the Road Fund. It was ordered the money be returned to the Post Office, but this was not done. Chairperson of the public accounts committee Leketekete Ketso instructed Majoro to find out what transpired as the issue involved large sums of money.

He strongly advised that officers who were responsible at the sales tax department be contacted for explanation. A careful scrutiny should be made to account for public funds and the ministry of finance should properly monitor funds under its domain, Ketso warned.

He also urged that a thorough probe be made to find out whether the M17 million was not paid out to “ghost students”.

In reaction, National Manpower Development Secretariat director Karabo Mabote promised to provide the committee with relevant records of payments for the students.

Committee members wondered why there was no proper handing over by the revenue departments when the LRA took over tax collection operations three years ago.

Majoro noted that the government’s accounting system was making it difficult to trace civil servants who were swindling public funds. A bundle of cases relating to undue payments to the civil servants was now dragged to courts of law and the office of the Ombudsman.

It also emerged during the proceedings that donor funding was difficult to monitor as some departments and ministries failed to open accounts through permission by the accountant general’s office.

“But we have introduced a system whereby government accounts held with banks could be traced,” said accountant general Kenneth Hlasa, adding such departments were to issue out monthly reports on their finances.

Majoro was ordered to report back his findings to the committee last Friday, regarding the financial irregularities depicted in the report. ‘ Public Eye.

August 2006
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