Civil Society for Poverty Reduction (CSRP) executive director Patrick Nshindano says it is not enough to only suspend or fire those that have stolen Social Cash Transfer funds but that beyond that, they should also be made to pay back.

The latest Auditor General’s report has revealed that K31 million which was sent to ZAMPOST for distribution to the poor and vulnerable citizens through the Social Cash Transfer Programme vanished without any banking records.

During the period under review, the Ministry of Community Development remitted amounts totalling K109,386,458 to ZAMPOST for payment to scheme beneficiaries to districts in Luapula and Western Provinces only, according to the contract.

“It was however observed that for the September/October 2017 Cycle the Ministry remitted funds in amounts totalling K30,947,320 to ZAMPOST for disbursements to North Western, Northern and Muchinga Provinces and Masaiti and Lufwanyama on the Copperbelt which were not included in the contract. In her response dated 14th September 2018, the Controlling Officer stated that having noted that the contract did not adequately cover the provinces in question, the parties signed an addendum on 26th April 2018 after it was cleared by the Attorney General’s Office. However, the inclusion of North Western, Northern and Muchinga Provinces and the two districts on the Copperbelt was done in October 2017 before the addendum was signed,” revealed the report..

“During the period under review, the Ministry remitted amounts totalling K30,947,320 to ZAMPOST to pay the September/October 2017 cycle to 144,142 beneficiaries in Northern, Muchinga and North Western. However, as at 31st August 2018, ZAMPOST had not paid the beneficiaries and the funds were not accounted for in that there was no evidence of banking and no cash was found on hand. Contrary to the Appropriation Act of 2016, amounts totalling K116,893 meant for Social Cash Transfer Scheme activities were spent on activities such as Grants for juvenile conveyance, purchase of furniture and contribution towards traditional ceremonies among others, activities not related to the purpose for which the funds were appropriated.”

Reacting to the revelation, Nshindano in an interview said the due process of the law should be undertaken on the suspects.

“We also need to follow the due process of the law, to be taken to court and to be prosecuted accordingly in line with the Public Finance Management Act and there is no excuse whatsoever why they should not be prosecuted. But beyond that also we need to ensure that those that have stolen these funds are made to pay back. It is not enough for them to be either suspended or fired or whatever measures. There is need to make sure that the money is recovered because this money is meant for the poor and the vulnerable in society,” Nshindano said.

“As CSPR we did indicate that everybody found wanting must be prosecuted and we hope that with this being part of the evidence that is basically part of the information that ideally leads to prosecution. The fact that there is no trace on these funds it means that the people who were involved in the management must have stolen these funds and they need to be prosecuted accordingly. And we hope to see that this process will need to be made public in terms of those that were involved in the transaction so that the people’s money, the tax payers’ money will stop being misused,” he said.

And Nshindano said once the funds are recovered, they must be sent to the intended beneficiaries who were deprived.

“So we need to recover those funds and ensure that the beneficiaries receive these funds even when the coming allocation is going to be given in retrospect. It’s an issue of life and death really when you look at the constituency that is targeted. They barely have anything, they are very old people, we are talking about child headed households, disabled households and so on. So it’s a criminal offence and necessary action should be taken,” said Nshindano.