SECRETARY to the Treasury Fredson Yamba says donors are not making cash donations towards the fight against COVID-19 but are instead providing various equipment and carrying out certain activities towards that goal.

Meanwhile, Yamba says government can only give incentives to frontline health workers when it has the means to do so.

Speaking when he appeared before the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) during the consideration of the preliminary report of the Auditor General on the utilisation of COVID-19 resources, Monday, Yamba said the majority of pledges which were made are yet to be fulfilled.

He said a balance of US$319 million was outstanding from the COVID-19 pledges from various partners with only US$105 million disbursed as at November 31, 2020.

“At the time of interaction with the Office of the Auditor General, financing from the cooperating partners were still pledges and commitments. However, the current state as at 31st December is tabulated. Firstly, the United Kingdom through DFID, the pledge was made on 27th April, 2020 and the amount pledged was £46.4 million, later on this was revised to US$1.88 million. Às at 31st November2020, the amount that was disbursed was US$951,000.20, the balance remaining is US$923,395. And these resources Chair are being provided in the context of the response support package for COVID-19. The other pledge was from the Global Fund and the date of the pledge was 1st May, 2020, the amount pledged initially was US$6.7 million later, this was revised to US$26.4 million. As at 31st November 2020, US$7.5 million was disbursed leaving a balance of US$18.9 million. These resources Chair are being mobilised through savings from existing grants under Global Fund and new COVID-19 projects…What has been disbursed is US$105,708,000 and the balance is US$319,047,395,” he said.

And in response to a question from Mkushi North PF member of parliament Doreen Mwale, who asked whether there was a way in which the donations were being validated, Yamba revealed that donors were not making cash donations.

“With regard to validating the donations chair I indicated in my submission that we did provide guidelines with regards to handling of donations and aid in kind received on behalf of government in the fight against the corona virus. So, if you look at the financial management circular number 3, it clearly states how to deal with funds that are coming from citizens, cooperating partners, NGOs and so forth. So the guidelines were given, how to deal with the donations, we gave an appendix and so forth. So these guidelines are able to help us validate donations and we are able also to account for monies that are coming from donors but Honorable members, it must be crystal clear in our minds that most of the funds that are coming from the donors is not actual cash and these funds or activities are being implemented using their own institutions say to procure certain items that will help us combat the coronavirus,” Yamba said.

“So it’s not actual cash that is coming but if there is an existing project like the talked about Chinsali-Nakonde road, you take those funds, instead of using them on that particular segment of the road, you say alright this is what I am going to do, I am not giving you cash but I am going to undertake certain activities that will help you combat the coronavirus, so this what the donors are doing. They are not giving us cash but they are taking certain actions, say providing sanitisers, providing protective equipment, testing equipment and then giving them to the respective institutions and those have a value and then they say we have donated to Zambia so much then they will quantify that in dollar terms that is what is happening. Chair I submit.”

Meanwhile, in response to Committee Chairperson Howard Kunda, who wanted to find out what why the Presidential directive on incentives for health workers had not been followed, Yamba said the process was protracted because there were a lot of considerations to be made.

“Thank you Chair, like I earlier indicated and you have mentioned that there was a directive that the Ministry of Health should come up with incentives. Now these incentives cannot be given in isolation, they have to be presented to Cabinet. So there is a process so that at the end of the day, there is a collective responsibility and in terms even giving the incentives, it should be within our means that we have the ability to do so. So that’s why you find that on certain instances, these issues are so protracted because when they are being debated, then you must decide, alright this is what we are going to do, how are we going to realise the resources and how best can we do it. So this is something that then should go to Cabinet and finally be approved. And once the approval is given, its of course the back station of the Ministry of Finance then implementation can go forward but like you have indicated Chair, it’s good that you have given a reminder that this directive was given some time back and we have been moving slowly then we need to up our game. Thank you Chair,” he said.

He said despite financial constraints, government was committed to ensuring the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic was won.

“So there are specific things that government is doing, this is an ongoing thing and I must mention it to the honorable committee, if something, yes we have learnt lessons and yes we will continue to learn lessons so that we can make Zambia a better place as regards the fight against COVID-19 but also, what we should bear in mind is that there is a limitation on government depending on the resources available so we will do our best as treasury to ensure that we do as much possible to ensure that there are enough funds available to combat COVID-19 because its affecting us and its impacting negatively on the economy. And it’s not only Zambia but also worldwide, so this is a global pandemic and we are doing the best that we can with the minimum resources to see how best it can be mitigated. So that’s the direction that we have taken and our views are not cast in concrete, we are listening,” said Yamba.

Yamba also said government has utilised domestic resources in the procurement of certain essential items like masks, sanitisers and so forth for the schools that opened yesterday.