MASERU – The National Reforms Transition Office (NRTO) is yet to publicize findings of the institutional gap assessments on three arms of government and selected ministries conducted between September 2022 and May 2023. The assessments were conducted to determine recommendations for the closure of the institutional gaps in support of Lesotho’s reforms project and their implementation.
Public Administration International (PAI), a UK-based consultancy firm, was contracted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Lesotho on behalf of NRTO to conduct the assessment but the findings have still not been published a year later. This is despite PAI completing the job and the findings being touted as instrumental to the success of the reform process and their implementation. NRTO’s tenure also expires in March after it was extended twice.
NRTO is National Reforms Authority (NRA)’s secretariat that remained in office when the authority’s mandate expired in May 2022. It remained in office to basically oversee the reforms process and to provide support to the Ministry of Justice, Law & Parliamentary Affairs, as well as the relevant Parliamentary Portfolio Committee seized with the passage of the 11th Amendment to the Constitutional Bill.
Not much can be said about the successes of the office but a concept note by NRTO said Lesotho’s reform dialogue and “popular views” highlighted a performance gap related to technical and management capabilities in three arms of government compatible with the reforms process and the views of Basotho.
As a result, institutional gap assessments were then commissioned to identify critical capacity gaps and to propose strategic and capacity development strategies to address the challenges.
NRTO said the assessments were completed in a statement on November 2, 2023 and held a dissemination workshop on the same findings in Mohale’s Hoek at Mount Maluti Hotel from November 6 to November 10. However, the findings have not been made public. The office says the report and its findings are not yet ready because “it’s undergoing quality checks and may only be availed when the checks have been done.”
Chief Executive Officer, Ts’iu Khatibe told Public Eye in a brief telephone interview on Monday this week that they are awaiting the final report from the consultant.
He said the report was already being finalized but the Christmas break affected the completion advising this publication to wait until next week.
Khatibe blamed the fact that there were changes made on ministries as some merged and others separating as contributing to the delay. When Prime Minister Sam Matekane took over power over a year ago, he trimmed cabinet posts which meant there was inter-ministerial transfer of some functions. Khatibe had initially promised journalists that the report would be released in November last year when his office, in collaboration with the UNDP, held a dissemination workshop on the assessment findings.
The objectives of the workshop, among others, were to discuss in detail, components of the findings and recommendations and to review the findings and recommendations specific to each arm of government namely; the Executive, the Judiciary and Parliament. The media was only invited to cover the opening and the closing remarks of the workshop and Khatibe undertook to avail the report to journalists after the workshop.
Public Eye was told to await the consultant’s final report on November 14, 2023 when it inquired about it and when the publication requested the report on Monday this week, Khatibe shared only the executive summary and insisted that the final report is still not ready. However, PAI says it implemented and completed the assignment as contracted by UNDP.
“I can confirm that PAI implemented and successfully completed the above project,” PAI Director, Claire Cameron, stated in an email to Public Eye on Wednesday this week. UNDP had not yet responded to the publication’s questions at the time of going to print last night. According to the report’s executive summary provided to Public Eye, the assessment revealed a number of key factors and issues which impact on the ability of the core government institutions to operate effectively. It highlights a number of adjustments required which include comprehensive revision of institutional standing orders and standard operating procedures, mechanisms to upscale integrity and ethics in public institutions including Parliament, the Judiciary and the Public Service through codes of conduct and ethics, including effective provisions for their implementation and enforcement.
Enhancing the legislative role of parliament “with regard to capacity for in-depth scrutiny of legislation, the establishment of a legislative agenda, harmonization of amendments by the National Assembly and Senate and the processes for public consultation”
On top of that, it says there is need for a comprehensive evidence-based governance and performance management and monitoring and evaluation framework across the core institutions and at the functional and individual level and also suggests the development of a comprehensive policy and programme for capacity and knowledge building of senior position holders in core institutions and the foreign service in partnership with educational establishments.
It is said that the recommendations will develop a strategy and project document that will then enable the three core institutions (the Executive, Parliament, and the Judiciary) to deliver on the reforms more effectively and efficiently.
Lesotho has still not implemented the reforms process due to a number of reasons but the government undertook to table all reforms related legislation when parliament resumes next month. The process first experienced a major setback in September 2022 when the High Court (sitting as the Constitutional Court) nullified the 11th amendment to the constitution after it was passed by the recalled 10th parliament as that parliament sought to effect some key changes to the constitution before the country’s 2022 general elections.
The recall was later found to be outside the requirements of the law following a constitutional challenge to the purported state of emergency that resulted in the recall of parliament. As a result, all the business of parliament conducted upon its recall also fell off. But even without the constitutional challenge, some of the provisions would have passed and signed into law without a referendum making the laws susceptible to legal challenges.
An attempt by the current parliament to resuscitate reforms was also unsuccessful as the Appeal Court nullified Parliament’s standing order 105B. The standing order empowered parliaments reinstate business that lapsed with the dissolution or prorogation of previous parliaments but the court ruled that “parliament cannot bind its successor”.