Minister of Community Development and Social Welfare Olipa Phiri has disclosed that her ministry only paid Social Cash Transfer beneficiaries in January and February this year due to non availability of funds.

But Mumbwa UPND member of parliament Credo Nanjuwa has wondered why the government is considering increasing the number of beneficiaries on the scheme when it cannot even afford to pay the current beneficiaries their dues.

Phiri was responding to a question from Bangweulu PF member of parliament Anthony Kasandwe, who wanted to know whether there were any outstanding payments to beneficiaries on social cash transfer scheme.

Kasandwe also wanted to find out what had caused the delay in paying the beneficiaries as well as how often beneficiaries were paid and how long they would remain on the scheme.

In response, Phiri said the affected beneficiaries were 632,020 in total and that they were not able to receive their payments due to failure by the treasury and cooperating partners to release funding.

“The social cash transfer scheme beneficiary households have only been paid in January and February, bi-monthly transfer this year. This leaves the outstanding payment of four payment cycles and this is March, April, May, June, July, August and September, October. The affected beneficiaries are 632,020. The payment of transfers has delayed due to none release of funds from the Treasury and our cooperating partners towards the programme. Initially, the beneficiaries are paid every two months and the beneficiary households on the scheme stay on the programme for three years, after which, they are expected to be reassessed and determine the status of their living conditions. Madam Speaker, as a ministry we have started paying for March and April, which means that we are going to pay everything else that is owed,” Phiri said.

But UPND’s Credo Nanjuwa raised concerns on government’s intention to increase the number of beneficiaries on the scheme.

In her response, Phiri assured the nation that government had not failed to pay.

“The government hasn’t failed to pay, it’s only that we had some challenges the past two months, that’s why there is that delay. Otherwise, we are able to pay. That’s why I have said that we are able to pay for March and April,” Phiri said.

Meanwhile, Kabwe Central member of parliament Tutwa Ngulube queried the minister in another follow up question if she had been making any efforts to entice cooperating partners who had withdrawn their aid to come back.

And her response, Phiri said she would start doing so immediately the forensic report on theft of funds was completed by the end of this week.

“I appreciate your concern [honourable member for Kabwe Central]. Yesterday I sat with the cooperating partners and we are looking at what will be the way forward. Meanwhile, we are still waiting for the forensic report, which by maybe the end of this week will be ready and after that we will renegotiate with the people from our cooperating partners…. But I just want to assure the honourable members that government and we as a ministry are renegotiating with ministry Finance. And we are going to pay for the remaining months as we had promised the people of Zambia… as Ministry fo Community Development, we are now working with Smart Zambia to look at the system which we can ensure that we start monitoring the monies at the press of a button in the Province and at national level,” said Phiri.