Minister of Community Development and Social Welfare Kampamba Chewe says her ministry will soon launch a biometric program for the disbursement of social cash transfer in a bid to boost accountability.

Last week, Irish Ambassador to Zambia Séamus O’Grady said Irish Aid would not resume support to the social cash transfer until issues of accountability were resolved.

“Well, unfortunately we were part of the number of donors that contributed to the social cash transfer and we stopped our support for that last year, at least for the moment. We were disappointed and yes not just in Zambia. There is a growing concern among donors around accountability. Some of this is driven by our own constituencies back at home you know there are some people who say why give money to African countries when we have needs at home, we defend that but any instance of donor funds being misappropriated and I must say that it’s not exclusively that there is just misappropriation in government, we have also given money to NGOs that has been misused,” said Ambassador O’Grady, adding that he did not think funding to the SCT would resume this year.

And in an interview regarding these concerns, Chewe explained measures which had been put in place to ensure that accountability was heightened in the social cash transfer program.

“We worked in conjunction with Smart Zambia to create that [biometric] system so that we will use it under the social cash transfer for transparency purposes and we are launching that program at the end of the month. We are not re-launching the SCT program, the social cash transfer is already in existence. What we have just done is that we have enhanced the system, we have improved on the distribution of the funds and how the beneficiaries are going to get the money because of transparency purposes so that there is more accountability. And people can actually, even you as a reporter can actually go into the office of the social welfare office and say can I see the beneficiaries in your district, let’s say for example in Kaputa, then you are able to check. For example maybe you heard on the ground that Honorable Mulenga has placed 50 of her relatives in Kalulushi, you can actually go and see because it will upload who has been paid and who hasn’t been paid then you can investigate,” Chewe said.

“We have been working with Smart Zambia and I think at the end of the month, we should be able to launch the program we are calling Biometrics where beneficiaries are now going to choose which banks or mobile money service they want to use based on their preferences. Whether it’s through the bank or whether it’s through mobile money, they have to choose their paymaster but it has to be in biometrics form. And then also, for accountability purposes and of course in the spirit of a corrupt free process and also in the spirit of transparency, this biometric will now tell that whenever for example if I am here in Lusaka, and the beneficiary is in Kalulushi, it will be linked to this system and the members of the public are entitled to actually go and see, who are the beneficiaries, and it is also to our advantage as the ministry in charge of the social cash transfer to actually see if for example, there are beneficiaries who probably are not receiving that money, it will entail that if this person is original and if they are even entitled to access it.”

She said the social cash transfer program was currently ongoing despite some donors withholding support because it was funded by government, 82 per cent.

“The social cash transfer, all our cooperating partners that gave us…you see what it is, 82 per cent of the SCT program money is GRZ, only 18 percent of the money comes from our donors, our cooperating partners. So all the partners, everyone has been on board, so we are now just seeking for additional financing which we are now also in negotiations with the Ministry of Finance, obviously after this program, the social cash transfer and the duo program comes to an end, what you do is that you seek for additional financing and now that the program has been going on well, obviously the additional financing will be there from GRZ and cooperating partners who have indicated that they will give us the money,” said Chewe.