The University of Zambia Lecturers and Researchers Union (UNZARU) says it is shocking how a ministry which keeps saying that it has no money to pay retired lecturers, can afford to spend over K19 million on paying meal allowances to ghost students.

The latest Auditor General’s report has revealed that over K19 million was paid to students who were not on the data base of the government bursary.

“A comparison of the invoices from UNZA for sponsored students to the database of Bursaries Committee supported students revealed that 3,568 students were appearing on the UNZA invoice but not on the bursaries list of Government supported students. As a result, the University over billed Government in amounts totalling K71,082,937 for the 3,568 students. In addition, it was observed that there were 3,191 students who appeared on the bill but were not on the overall registered GRZ Sponsored students database,” revealed the Auditor General.

“During the year under review, meal allowances in amounts totalling K19,503,068 were paid to 3,864 students who did not appear on the list of students on the University Invoices. As a result, it was not possible to ascertain whether the payments were made to intended students.”

Commenting on the development, UNZALARU secretary general Dr Kelvin Mambwe said the money in question must have landed into someone’s pocket.

“It’s very unfortunate that such a thing is happening in a ministry where we are told that money is a problem for paying some of our outstanding arrears such the gratuity, pension and so on and then at the same ministry money is misapplied. I am not so sure whether that money was spent. If it was really spent, [then] there is need for an investigation to see who is that [who] benefited from those monies because those are huge sums of monies which could have gone a long way in alleviating some of the many issues that the university is facing particularly issues to do with members of staff who have retired and have not been paid their money,” Dr Mambwe said.

He said there was need for the ACC to thoroughly investigate the matter.

“So what I can say is to call upon the Anti-Corruption Commission to come in and investigate where exactly that money went to? Who benefitted from that money? It is really a very sad development on our part and we are so disappointed as a union that such money can be spent on ghost students at a cost of real people who are in need of that money including the students themselves. There are students who have been denied bursaries, there are a lot of students who are struggling to pay and here is a ministry extending monies on ghost students. It’s very unfortunate and it just goes to show how deep rooted corruption has become,” Dr Mambwe said.

And Dr Mambwe said it was very possible that the money in question could have landed into someone’s pocket.

“That explains why there have been delays in other monies for paying students on time including lecturers because that money which is budgeted for this course has been extended to ghost individuals. So, indeed if these monies were spent on real people, the issues that the university is facing and the unrest that you have seen in the recent past would have been avoided. And I don’t know how the university works with the Ministry of Education. So that money must have landed somewhere and in fact I don’t think that money was received by the students who are not on bursary. It must have landed somewhere in people’s pockets,” said Dr Mambwe.