Parley committee chases Finance PS for failure to explain Social Cash Transfer queries

THE Parliamentary Committee on Health, Community Development and Social Services on Monday sent away Ministry of Finance permanent secretary for budget and economic affairs Emmanuel Mulenga Pamu for failure to respond to audit queries on revelations that 8,558 people who received social cash transfer on the pretext that they were disabled, were actually not.

According to the Auditor General’s Report for the period between 2014 and 2017, out of a total of 8,558 beneficiaries purported to be disabled, credentials for only 76 beneficiaries could be verified as disabled with the Zambia Agency for Persons Living with Disabilities while the rest neither had a ZAPD certificate nor a medical certificate from a certified medical practitioner to confirm their disability.

The Report further stated that the Minister paid social cash transfer totaling K2,053,800 to 2,284 ineligible beneficiaries for the periods ranging from two to 140 months.

It was also reported that a total of K63,539,888 was paid to districts above the required 15 per cent threshold.

“Out of a total of 8,558 beneficiaries purported to be disabled, credentials for only 76 beneficiaries could be verified as disabled with the Zambia Agency for Persons Living with Disabilities while the rest had neither a ZAPD certificate nor a medical certificate from a certified medical practitioner to confirm their disability. The Minister further paid social cash transfer totalling K2, 053,800 to 2,284 ineligible beneficiaries for the periods ranging from two to one hundred and forty months. The Ministry spent administration costs of K317,748,992.42 which was 42% between 2014 and 2017 which require that administration costs should not exceed 15% of the transfer value as per the Ministry’s own Harmonized Manual of Operations as Social Cash Transfer (2013),” read the Auditor General’s report.

But when Pamu and his team appeared before the Committee, chairperson Princess Kasune noticed that in his submission, he did not respond to any queries.

“PS, you do understand that the submission report today has to do with the finding in the Auditor General’s Report between 2014 and 2017 as related to cash transfer program and you also do understand your role as Ministry of Finance PS because it is your duty to know. I am having a little bit of difficulties in reading that submission on what happened to 8,558 and how you are giving us suggestions or explanations on how the response is. When I look at your submission, it is talking of what livestock is doing and not answering to issues raised by Auditor General’s Report,” Kasune said.

In his response, Pamu said there was some misunderstanding on which questions he was supposed to answer.

“Chair, sorry. I think there was some misunderstanding on which questions we should be answering. But of course there are concerns that there is the mention of the issue 76 out of 8,558 people benefiting and that is the fundamental issue which must be taken up. You have rightly put that resources are less and these resources surely, have to be used in a good manner. Just to draw your attention to the fact that at the time when there were all these allegations of misappropriation of these funds, there was a point when we had to somehow stop funding until those issues were ironed out. So there were genuine concerns even from their perspective of Ministry of Finance. There was a period when we had to stop making disbursement until the issues, particularly those issues were raised by our cooperating partners which were genuine concerns too,” Pamu said.

Ministry of Finance permanent secretary for budget and economic affairs Emmanuel Mulenga Pamu when he appeared before the Parliamentary committee on health, community development and social services on February 10, 2020 – Picture by Tenson Mkhala

But Kasune asked the PS and his team go back and prepare a proper, detailed report which should be submitted before the Committee this Friday.

“PS, I need you back because we are struggling to make sense. Kindly, resubmit your report with amendments. Zambia is struggling with resources and your Ministry is struggling to pay debts. You can’t allow such irregularities in such a manner. Don’t give us a document which is not adding up. Don’t keep on defending the wrongs because Zambian people want accountability. How will we help the Zambian people who want to see how money is being used in the country? PS go back and you have to come back by Friday with a good report,” said Kasune.

Meanwhile, Auditor General Dick Chellah Sichemba said there was no political interference in the way the institution was operating.

“One thing that I have told my offices is that the work we do, we have been mandated by the Constitution of the Republic and it is Article 249 to 250. It requires and stipulates that we are independent and there are no directions of any other person to discharge our duty and
that is the way we are going to carry the mandate going forward. I don’t know if there has been political interference but to the best of my knowledge [there is none],” Chellah said.

He also vowed not to shield criminals.

“But what we have agreed is the responsibility that has been installed on us by the Zambian people and by the support of the highest law of the land not to be interfered. We have to tell the story the way it is because once we don’t do that, then we absorbed into the problems of other people. People commit problems. They commit crimes then when we start shielding them, then, we become part of them and I don’t think it is in the interest of us and also the country to not to get absorbed into someone’s problems. We have to ensure that we follow the provisions of the law. So we are not going to allow that and like I said, we shall not do that,” he said.

Chellah lamented that law enforcement agencies took too long to investigate certain cases.

“On Financial Intelligent Centre, DEC, ACC Human Rights and Zambia Police, we have got the Memorandum of Understanding with them on how we are going to collaborate. We are going to set up a committee to just collaborate and share the information and become very effective and robust in processing some of these cases and also addressing the issues of financial misdirection. We just have to enhance the time they take to investigate and that is what we are working on. We have realized that they take too long in investigating cases that are brought to them,” said Chellah.




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