Community Development and Social Services Minister Kampamba Mulenga says there has never been a time that cooperating partners have abandoned government due to missing funds under the Social Cash Transfer (SCT) scheme.
And Mulenga has announced that government has identified some vulnerable headmen in the country and incorporated them on the Social Cash Transfer scheme as a way of helping to sustain the traditional leaders.
Mulenga said this in Parliament, Tuesday, when the House was considering a motion to adopt the report of the Committee on Health, Community Development and Social Services on the report of the Auditor General on the Social Cash Transfer in Zambia for the period 2014 to 2017.
The motion which was moved by Lukulu East UPND member of parliament Christopher Kalila was seconded by his Kaumbwe PF counterpart Listed Tembo and was unanimously adopted after intense debate by parliamentarians.
On the reported missing Social Cash Transfer funds, Mulenga claimed that funds had never gone missing as alleged and that government was still enjoying cordial relations with its funders.
“I want to also put on record that there has never been a time that our cooperating partners have abandoned government under the Ministry of Community Development under the Social Cash Transfer programme. Mr Speaker, I wish to report to this house that it is only this month that we, as a Ministry, will be signing the additional financing under this programme. Meaning our cooperating partners still have a lot of confidence in this government. I wish to put on record Mr Speaker that there has been no money under the Social Cash Transfer that has been missing, this is mere speculation. If at all money was missing, I do not think our cooperating partners would again agree to sign for the additional financing. This is propaganda, it is in bad faith, and this programme is not political,” Mulenga explained.
“Mr Speaker, it was only on Friday that I walked to the other side of the house to ask the members of parliament to partner with us to identify some of the beneficiaries that were on the programme but did not have the proper records. Mr Speaker, the missing application of the K2 million does not mean that the money went missing, clearly we have not received a lot of help from this (opposition) side of the House. Half the time, they are not in their constituencies, half the time they are at Parliament motel. If you ask them how they know if these beneficiaries receive their money… Mr Speaker this government is not broke, it is only last week that we received K22 million which we will be paying out to our beneficiaries and that is the clarity I was getting from the members of parliament. So to accuse our government that it is broke and does not have the money to pay the social cash transfer is false and it is just propaganda. Mr Speaker, 85 per cent of Social Cash Transfer comes from GRZ, it comes from Treasury of which President Lungu is in charge. Then 15 per cent is coming from our cooperating partners and that is the record that I want to correct.”
On the recommendations of the committee, she said the PF government had tried hard to alleviate the suffering of rural people by increasing the allocation to vulnerable households under the Social Cash Transfer programme.
“Mr Speaker, the findings and recommendations of the committee have been well noted. Let me state that the period 2014 – 2017 was unique in the implementation of the Social Cash Transfer, in that the programme coverage was increased to more districts and more beneficiary households. Mr Speaker, rolling out of the Social Cash Transfer programme from 50 districts in 2014 to 104 districts in 2016, as well as increasing the number of beneficiaries from 180,261 in 2014 to 590,000, was not an easy task to achieve. I totally agree with the report that the Ministry has managed to reach 574,633 households out of the targeted 590,000 households, representing a coverage of 97.4 per cent and the Ministry had selected the beneficiaries in the remaining 24 districts yet the transfer payment had not started,” Mulenga said.
“Mr Speaker, allow me to just speak to some of the concerns that have been raised by the honourable members of parliament and for clarity sake. When the Social Cash Transfer programme began in the MMD government, the beneficiaries were only receiving K35. But when the PF government assumed power, the amount increased to K70. As we speak now Mr Speaker, every beneficiary, those that are able bodied, are able to receive K180, K360 for those that are disabled. Mr Speaker under President Edgar Lungu, I think this is a milestone. If there has been a President that has been very concerned [about] the social protection programme, it has been the PF government with both presidents. We have seen a rapid increase in terms of payments. Currently Mr Speaker, what the honourable members of parliament may wish to note is that my Ministry is implementing what we are calling the Cash Plus. Under this Cash Plus, the beneficiaries of the social cash transfer are not only receiving the K180 or K360, we have also put them on the food security pack. We are now going on a programme where we are trying to graduate these beneficiaries so that it is sustainable for them. So this government really has a concern of these beneficiaries.”
She further said her Ministry had incorporated some vulnerable headmen on the Social Cash Transfer programme to help them sustain their lives.
“Mr Speaker, may I take this opportunity to inform the house that we have also incorporated other beneficiaries. Today Mr Speaker, it is only this government that has actually identified headmen. Some of the most vulnerable headmen will now be on the social cash transfer scheme. It is this government that wants to ensure that even the most vulnerable headmen are able to sustain themselves. Mr Speaker, the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services has learnt a lot from the findings and recommendations of the Committee on Health, Community Development and Social Services and will therefore ensure that the Social Cash Transfer programme is implemented in an efficient and effective manner. The ministry will also continue to work hand in hand with other government line Ministries and stakeholders such as NGOs to strengthen the coordination and collaboration of efforts,” said Mulenga.