Finance Minister Margaret Mwanakatwe says it is not President Edgar Lungu’s mandate to tell the nation about irregularities in the social cash transfer scheme but to brag about the impact of the programme in his address to Parliament.
And Mwanakatwe says government does not yet know for sure how much of the $4 million British aid to Zambia meant for the social cash transfer scheme was stolen until.
Mwanakatwe was responding to Kabompo UPND member of parliament Ambrose Lufuma who wanted to know why government allowed President Lungu to lie to Parliament about the irregularities in the social cash transfer, Thursday.
“Honourable Minister, I am glad actually to hear that you were the first to hear about these fraudulent activities in the social cash transfer. But I wonder, we in the UPND, we must inform you that we knew eight months ago that there were fraudulent activities in this Social Cash Transfer and you have confirmed the same. Now, having confirmed minister, why did you allow the President on Friday last week to come here and mislead this House and the general public that the Social Cash Transfer was all rosy and everything was okay, according to what he said here in Parliament on Friday, why minister did you allow that to happen?” asked Lufuma.
But Mwanakatwe told the House that the President cannot say such things in Parliament because the office he holds cannot allow him to do so.
“Honourable member of parliament for Kabompo, the Social Cash Transfer programme has been a resounding success. It has been a resounding success and this is why my President is speaking about it to the House. He is not coming here to tell ‘oh there is a forensic [audit], oh there is an audit’, why should he do that? He’s the President [and] he will tell you about the impact of the programme, that’s what he will come here to do Mr Speaker. And us on this side (members from the ruling party), we are very proud of this programme and we will continue to support it. It’s our baby and we like it and we like the impact that it has on the community. This is why we are saying we will play our part of it and commit to make sure that anything that is due to the beneficiaries is done by the end of December. So we love this programme and the President will keep bragging about it, that’s why he is keenly taking interest on the goings on of this particular programme,” Mwanakatwe said.
And responding to Mufulira PF member of parliament Evans Chibanda, who wanted to know exactly how much money had been stolen, Mwanakatwe said she would not speculate because investigations were ongoing.
“Mr Speaker, money has been misapplied here, we don’t know whether it’s just donor money or government money or a combination. This is why for us, we don’t even know how much money has been stolen because a forensic is what is going to tell us how much money has been stolen and the forensics have not yet been concluded. I will not even speculate on social media matters honourable member of parliament for Mufulira. I will stick to the facts and the facts are, committed funds for 2018 amount to 20 million [either Kwacha or Dollar] for social cash transfer. This is the impact of withholding of support on the 2018 budget and they are 13.9 million for the education sector. We are however confident that these matters will be addressed in a manner that is satisfactory to both cooperating partners and government. Once satisfactory collective information measures have been undertaken it is expected that the funding will resume. The point am making is, we do not know the amounts of the misapplication of funds. Once those are known, I will be the first one to come to this House and share those numbers with you,” Mwanakatwe said.
Meanwhile, responding to a question for oral answer from Choma Central UPND member of parliament Cornelius Mweetwa, Mwanakatwe explained why the UK government had frozen its bilateral aid to Zambia but emphasized that only funds meant for the social cash transfer were affected.
“The United Kingdom through it’s department of DfiD has been supporting Zambia in many areas, major ones being the following, education sector budget support, Zambia social protection and expansion programme which is social cash transfer which provides small grants to vulnerable households to assist them with regular monthly income to meet their basic needs. Thirdly and fourthly in the area of governance and the area of agriculture…Mr Speaker, I wish to indicate that the UK has only withheld its financial support to the social cash transfer programme and the education sector budget support. Support to other areas has not been affected. This is because the support which was put on hold was necessitated on account of reported concerns of financial mismanagement under these two programmes which include both the cases of misapplication of funds, underpayment of beneficiaries, irregular payment of gratuities, non adherence by Zampost to the signed MOU as well as insufficient capacity by Zampost to facilitate payment to the beneficiaries,” said Mwanakatwe.
“The impact of the withholding of the support on the 2018 budget is to the extent of the committed funds in the budget which amounts to 20 million for social cash transfer and 13.9 to the education sector. We are however confident that these matter will be addressed in a manner that is satisfactory to both the cooperating partners and government. Once satisfactory corrective measures have been taken, it is expected that funding will resume. The government is greatly concerned about these reported financial irregularities concerning the social cash transfer programme and education sector budget support.”