Finance and Development Minister, Dr RetÅ¡elisitsoe Matlanyane, has warned government suppliers that her ministry will no longer pay invoices that have been ordered through the phone starting from the 2023/24 financial year.
According to the Public Procurement Regulations, 2007, the correct procedure to procure goods and services for the government is through issuance of procurement order, but this is often not the case.
Addressing post budget speech discussions organised by Nedbank Lesotho and Revenue Services Lesotho (RSL) this week, Dr Matlanyane said this practice is dangerous as it leads to the government accumulating supplier payment arrears it often struggles to clear.
In December 2022, Dr Matlanyane told the National Assembly that the government owed more than M1 billion to its suppliers in response to a question lodged by the deputy leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), TÅ¡eliso Mokhosi.
By January 2023, in her state of the economy update, she said the government was unable to pay some M690 million in supplier arears from the 2021/22 financial year.
She said of the outstanding M643 million supplier debt, only M200 million had the supporting paperwork while M443 million did not, another challenge brought by procuring goods or services outside the procurement system.
â€œFor most of us who have worked with the government, we are familiar with the government systems and procedures, but we have allowed government employees to order by phone call, to say serve me lunch or bring me this, I need it because it is urgent,â€ Dr Matlanyane said.
â€œGuess what? It is outside the procurement system and unlawful and therefore it is not going to be paid for. I am not going to pay for such things. If it takes for you to learn the hard way whether the government enjoyed such services or not, we are not going to pay for procurements that are outside the law.â€
Dr Matlanyane further indicated that the government is centralising public procurement.
â€œNo government ministry will make any procurements alone, and the Ministry of Finance will serve for the time being, as the clearing house for all procurements to make sure that we check on the pricing, integrity of the process before tenders are awarded to anyone.
â€œAnd we will be procuring for things that we can afford to pay for so that we do not create areas. What we have learned is that leaving procurement to line ministries leads to arrears because they keep issuing orders even outside the budget even when they know they do not have the money, but at the end the problem comes to the Ministry of Finance, which has to pay,â€ Dr Matlanyane said.