Sun. Jul 21st, 2019

Govt stalls public sector improvement

KANANELO BOLOETSE

MASERU – The new Public Sector Improvement and Reform Programme (PSIRP) is at the heart of decentralisation of government services to ensure quality and accountable service delivery to villagers stuck in poverty and hopelessness, but implementation of the programme has been sluggish, Public Eye has established.

A concept paper for this programme has been sitting in Government Secretary (GS) Moahloli Mphaka’s office since January last year.

It is unclear why government has been dragging its feet about implementation of the project. When contacted this week, Mphaka indicated that he was in a meeting and referred this paper to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Lesekgo Makgothi.

Public Eye was, however, unable to immediately get a comment from Makgothi.

Public Eye understands that government’s nonchalance about the programme has discouraged development partners who were initially willing to bankroll the project to the tune of multiple millions but are now doubtful mainly due to the indifferent attitude demonstrated by government.

When contacted for comment yesterday, local government and chieftainship affairs minister Litšoane Litšoane said: “I cannot discuss the programme in detail because it is still a work in progress. In fact, we have a consultant Mr Mpopo Tsoele who is working on this project.”

Litšoane added: “The programme is in the pipeline. The European Union (EU) has promised to give us euros. That is the money that we are going to use to implement the whole project.”

Tsoele works for the Thaba-Bosiu based non-governmental organisation Pitsong Institute of Implementation Research (PIIR) which claims to have been established to facilitate and promote evidence based community-driven development in Lesotho and in other Africa countries.

Tsoele told this paper yesterday that the role of Pitsong Institute of Implementation Research as a consultant, was to advise not implement. He said the implementing authority is the government.

“Ours is to draw programmes which must be implemented by government. I, however, must admit progress has been slow, maybe mainly because the programme did not have an effective leadership structure. But things seem to be falling into place now, and there is hope,” he said.

He went on to explain that there was supposed to have been established, a National Project Steering Committee of Principal Secretaries (PSs) chaired by the Government Secretary (GS) whose mandate would be to steer the programme at policy level.

“That committee has not been established. There also was supposed to be a cabinet sub-committee chaired by the Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister in his absence to oversee the process and impact implementation. The sub-committee is there but it has been dragging.

“But lately there have been signs of support from the ministries of planning and finance. The GS has brought minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Mr Temeki Tšolo on board. I think we will start moving forward,” he said.

According to government’s official documents, copies of which Public Eye has seen, the contracting authority for the programme would be the delegation of EU to Lesotho.

The documents read: “Responsibility for the implementation, coordination, monitoring and evaluation of the remaining activities will vest in the Office of the Prime Minister, specifically the Government Secretary’s office. The EU Delegation will have an observer status.”

The main aim of the three-year programme, according to the documents, is to strengthen the capacity of the government (central and local) and non-state actors to “co-create, lead and account for the process and impact outcomes of the country’s new public sector improvement and reform programme”.

The programme is titled: The PM’s New Public Sector Improvement and Reform Programme (PSIRP) in Lesotho: for Improved Service Delivery, Transparency and Collective Accountability for the Vision 2020.

The documents further show that PIIR strives for a local governance system where communities are empowered and are championing their own development, working with and through effective local governments, effective civil society, effective local governance structures and a viable and widespread network community based service providers.

The first PSIRP was implemented in the financial year 2003/2004.

More than 15 years later, evidence shows that the first PSIR programme had serious crippling challenges especially in the areas of decentralisation, public financial management and public services management and therefore resulted in nominal yields.

It is against this background that the office of Prime Minister decided to redefine the programme and build the capacity of state and non-state actors to understand the new PSIRP and to define roles and responsibilities in the implementation.

Litšoane told Public Eye yesterday that a comprehensive decentralisation process the country is undergoing “is one of the programmes closest to my heart as minister of local government”.

According to the decentralisation policy of 2014, PSIRP “aims to improve efficiency in the public sector”.

“Component 2 of the PSIRP specifically identifies decentralisation as the main framework for improving service delivery. The PSIRP also outlines the outcomes that serve as guidelines for decentralisation in Lesotho, among which is the clarification of roles and functions and building capacity of local authorities,” the policy reads.

The purpose of the decentralisation policy is to deepen and sustain grassroots-based democratic governance and promote equitable local development by enhancing citizen participation and strengthening the local system, while maintaining effective functional and mutually accountable linkages between central and local government entities.

The specific objectives of the policy are to, among others, increase citizens’ access to public services, ensure quality and accountable service delivery at local levels, increase participation of citizens and non-state organisations in governance and service delivery, and enhance local autonomy by ensuring that local government institutions are sustainably capacitated and organised with a strong collective voice.

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