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Makenete promises independence into office of auditor general

In January this year, His Majesty King Letsie III pursuant to section 142 (1) of the Constitution acting on the Prime Minister’s advice appointed the former Central Bank of Lesotho second deputy Governor ‘Mathabo Makenete as the Auditor-General (AG).

Prior to her appointment, ’Mafani Masoabi had been holding the fort as the Auditor General. 

A Chartered Accountant, Makenete promises to build excellence into her leadership as she steps into the office.

The newly appointed AG says her tenure in office will be characterized by professionalism and collaborative synergies. Our reporter, Thoboloko Nts’onyane caught up with her to hear what her plans and vision are for the new assignment.  Below is the excerpt of the interview.

Please tell us briefly about yourself, who is ‘M’e ‘Mathabo Makenete?

I was born in Maseru 59 years ago, to Dr Strong Thabo and Mrs. ‘Maseeng Olive Makenete, in a family of four children. I am the third in the family of two girls and two boys. I studied in various schools in Maseru, till I reached the NUL. I graduated in 1985 with a BComm Accounting.

I then proceeded to the CAS and graduated with a CA (Les) in 1992.

I previously worked in three areas, Khali, Dlamini and Partners, a firm of Chartered Accountants and Auditors as a trainee Auditor, the Ministry of Employment and Labour as a Senior Accountant, and finally at the Central Bank of Lesotho in many capacities, spanning over 30 years. I started in the Internal Audit Department, moved to Foreign Exchange, as an officer, then became the Head of Financial Markets Department for eleven years, and later served as the Second Deputy Governor for ten years.

I am passionate about women’s empowerment, mentoring and coaching, and I also believe very strongly in ethical conduct and high standards of performance.

Just for our readers to have a sense of the nature of your office, what do your duties as the Auditor-General entail?

The office of Auditor-General (OAG) was established by the Constitution of Lesotho under Section 117. It also derives its authority from the Audit Act 2016, which repealed Audit Act 1973, establishing the OAG as an independent office.

The OAG is the Supreme Audit Institution of Lesotho. The main duties of the OAG include, but are not limited to:

  1. Ensuring that all moneys appropriated by Parliament and disbursed, are used for the purposes intended;
  2. Auditing the public accounts of the Government, state institutions, Government projects and to prepare a Report for Parliament;

“…I will elevate the status of the office to attain the independence it deserves…”

What can Basotho expect from your office and what is it that you want to achieve in this office?

Basotho should expect that the OAG undertakes its duties with utmost care and skill and with complete independence from external influence, required of this supreme institution.

In my tenure of office, I will elevate the status of the office to attain the independence it deserves, producing quality audit service to ensure the proper management of public finances of our country.

How does your office help the government to effectively manage and use the public resources?

The OAG helps the Government by ensuring that all monies that are appropriated by Parliament are disbursed in the manner intended. It makes recommendations to Parliament which in turn, ensures (through PAC) that recommendations are implemented.

Your office mandate is such that you are positioned to champion accountability, promote transparency and ethical conduct in the public sector through production of high-quality audit reports that are in line with international standards. At what cost do you achieve these, what is at stake for you and your team? What challenges are there hampering you to effectively discharge the roles entrusted to your office?

The cost to the Government is to ensure full independence to the OAG. To the office itself, the cost is in ensuring production of quality and timely audit service. All these things can be achieved if the office is granted financial autonomy to plan and execute its work to the best of its ability, and then Parliament responds by holding those accountable, to respond to OAG on the recommendations made, and ensuring enforcement of those recommendations.

In addition, security for the lives of the OAG staff and the hesitation on the part of auditees to release documents during an audit are some of the other costs.

For the time being, the challenges hampering the OAG from fully undertaking its mandate are that it is still in transition to full autonomy, lack of financial independence to properly plan for its audits which is yet not achieved, and lack of the appropriate skills mix and capacity.

Despite challenges confronting your office, how are you going to ensure that you produce quality audit reports?

The OAG will continue to discharge its mandate to the best of its ability. One of the key areas that is my priority, is to engage various key stakeholders that are instrumental in ensuring that OAG meets its mandate and produces quality reports. Further to that, I have engaged my team that, despite the current hurdles, we should persevere and continue working to the best of our abilities.

However, I’m hoping that increasing staff and professionalization of the office will be among the critical low-hanging fruits to implement, to assist us in our quest to produce the quality of reports that the nation requires and deserves, which are delivered on time.

In the discharge of its duties, does your office act on the public’s tips on reports that there is misconduct by some public office falling under your mandate? Are there mechanisms in place in which your office can receive tips to pursue regarding cases of non-compliances and misconduct by some public offices?

Yes, in a nutshell the OAG does rely on public outcries including through newspapers and radio programmes. For risk assessment, OAG reads reports from other institutions. However, there is no whistle-blowing policy that is in place. In addition, Auditors come across fraud, misconduct and non-compliance during discharge of their duties, which is reported.

What do you think needs to happen for the government to enhance accountability and professional conduct in the public service? Also, if these issues continue to happen unabated, what do they translate to for the country?

There needs to be professionalization of the civil service, ensuring that all staff tasked with management of public finances know their full duties and responsibilities, and that they are held accountable.

At the same time, Parliament needs to be legally armed to enforce recommendations of the OAG after they have reviewed and accepted them, so that corrective action is taken speedily.

Following sometimes damning reports of misconduct and lack of transparency and professionalism unearthed by the office of the Auditor-General, what do you think can be done to recover otherwise dwindling trust in government by the potential investors, business community, development partners and members of the public to the government?

What needs to be done is that there should be enforcement. Once the PAC has reviewed the report, understood those recommendations of the AG, and agreed to them, these should be made directives for enforcement by Parliament, to responsible Ministries. This is so that whatever action is required, is taken by affected ministries, or law enforcement agencies.

After the end of your tour of duty, how would you like to be remembered as the Auditor-General?

I would like to be remembered for having driven the mandate of the OAG and to have achieved automation of the Office at a higher level than we have, as I start my tour of duty; also for achieving collaboration between state agencies that are tasked with ensuring proper public financial management of Lesotho.

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