MINISTER of Youth, Sport and Arts Elvis Nkandu says some artists used fake information to benefit from the youth empowerment fund, adding that some recipients might have connived with suppliers to convert the funds meant for equipment into cash.

And Nkandu says he is aware that some artists have gone into hiding after government announced its intentions to collect the money they were owing.

Meanwhile, Nkandu says government has recovered over K15 million from the first 50 fuel tankers and K2 million from various youth empowerment programmes.

Addressing the media, Thursday, Nkandu said the recovery rate for 37 projects due for loan repayment was at 10 percent.

He said because some people had considered the loans they got as benefits because they sang some songs for the previous regime.

“The loans have a simple annual interest of 9% and a grace period up to six months upon full disbursement. The repayment period varies upon the amount but ranges from one to five years. As of December, 2021, CEEC has fully disbursed loans to 54 recipients to the value of K8,999,401.01 and partially disbursed, that is paid for equipment only to 85 recipients to the value of K15,491,045.36 and 13 recipients to the value of K1,887,787,50 are yet to receive their loans. The recovery rate for 37 projects due for loan repayment is at mere 10%. Some people thought because they sang some songs for the last regime, they thought those were benefits,” he said.

“This should be of great concern to the country because this was a tool to transform arts in Zambia. Most of the recipients have not started making repayments as provided in the loan agreements they signed. We have received some reports that some recipients may have connived with suppliers to divert the funds meant for equipment into cash. This is where you are seeing DEC has also come in. Some people connived with suppliers to get fake receipts so that they are funded. When we went to check, we found that there was no equipment.”

Nkandu revealed that some people had given the ministry fake information in order for them to get funds from the ministry.

“This situation undermines government’s good intention of this empowerment. This was a revolving fund which relied on repayments from recipients. I wish to direct that all projects that are due for repayment should commence with immediate effect. Those with outstanding issues should engage the Ministry through the fund managers to ensure they reconcile their records. CEEC is directed to take immediate action on any non-compliant recipients, especially those that have diverted funds or are not cooperating to present the right documents. There should be no sacred cows. I will be undertaking on spot checks to monitor levels of implementation and compliance,” he said.

“Some people had given us very wrong addresses. Some people set up offices and yet those were just for getting money from the Ministry. When you go there now, you will not find those offices. All 152 beneficiaries are aware that this was a revolving fund and they should focus on paying back. Today we are just sounding a warning that they should pay back. When we start chasing them, they will start saying we are being victimised because we sang good songs for the previous regime. If you were careful, you would have told them to give you a grant but as long as it was a loan, you should pay back. Can you tell us that is victimisation? No.”

And Nkandu said he was aware some artists had gone into hiding.

“These directions should be made in the quest of securing the interest of the artists. Our actions should not be seen as targeting artists. Tomorrow, I do not want to hear Elvis is only targeting those artists who sang for the previous political party, no. The way you came to the Ministry to collect the money, that is the same way you should pay back. We should not even come to your offices to get the money,” he said.

“This government will never target political parties because we have an obligation to fulfill. Some of them have gone into hiding, what do you expect? Through you, they will be able to hear me and they should not kill themselves but let them just pay back because that was a loan. Some people went an extra mile to even impersonate as comedians and yet we have never come across their comedy.”

Meanwhile, Nkandu said government had finalised the guidelines for cooperatives to start accessing the fuel tanker trucks.

“The 50 cooperatives that benefited from the programme are Lusaka, Copperbelt, North Western, Southern, Northern, Muchinga and Central. There were no cooperatives from Luapula Eastern and Western provinces that benefited from the programme. The targeting and identification of beneficiaries was poorly done. We want to ensure equity and social justice in the implementation of all programmes. The fuel tanker truck project is a government programme and no truck has been abandoned. The programme targets registered youth cooperatives with 30 members and demonstrate capacity to profitably thrive in the sector,” he said.

“My Ministry has reviewed and finalised the guidelines for cooperatives to start accessing the fuel tanker trucks. All cooperatives should be attached to an oil marketing company for mentorship and capacity building. There is that negative attitude towards government assets because some people take it for granted. The cooperatives should get applications from the Ministry and in various provincial administrations. This province will benefit only five trucks for now. Later we will increase the number of tankers but at the moment we have only 50. Maybe in May this year, we will be able to procure more tankers.”

Meanwhile, Nkandu said government had recovered over K15 million from the first 50 fuel tankers and K2 million from various youth empowerment programmes.

“These programmes have started performing very well with regards to recoveries to urge the young people to start paying back so that other youths can benefit. To this effect, over K2 million has been recovered from the programmes. In addition, over K15 million has been recovered from the first 50 fuel tankers. This K15 million is the first money we have collected ever since we came into office. Before we came into office, there was not even a coin that was collected from these tankers. So for us, this is a very good return from the tankers that we have given to these cooperatives,” he said.

“My Ministry will also advertise in the national newspapers tomorrow for oil marketing companies to express interest in the management of tanker trucks on behalf of the Ministry and the beneficiaries. This is how transparent this new dawn government is. These should be fully registered Zambian companies and they should be able to build capacity for beneficiaries to be able to take care of the tankers once they are fully paid for. We are only targeting cooperatives with youths aged between 18 and 35.”

Nkandu said government would start paying the K9 million owed to youths by next week.

“The youth interns and their over K9 million owed to them and today I am being bombarded by the youths that I do not care. They worked for this money and it was budgeted for. All I want is a little more time from our interns. This money was budgeted for in 2021 and I do not know where this money has gone. We are trying by all means to ensure we settle this issue. Please do not even think of protesting. Let me inform all affected interns that my Ministry wrote to the treasury requesting for release of these funds. All things being equal, affected interns should start receiving their money by next week. This is how serious we are,” said Nkandu.