FORMER minister of youth, sport and child development Emmanuel Mulenga says if procedures for giving youths empowerment funds were not followed, relevant authorities must follow up officers who were responsible for identifying beneficiaries.

Last week, current youth and sports minister Elvis Nkandu revealed that some artists provided fake information to access loans, adding that some recipients might have connived with suppliers to convert the funds meant for equipment into cash.

But commenting on this in an interview, Mulenga said the people who were approving loans while he was minister are the same ones who are still in charge now and they can therefore be queried.

“First of all, we need to know what exactly they are talking about that things were not done correctly. You know, it is a government of systems. There are systems that have been put there from the Kaunda days. I mean they have been there from the time of our colonial masters. The systems have been there and are being improved almost on a daily basis. For any empowerment to be done, first of all, the application has to be made in particular districts where the youths are coming from through the district commissioner who writes recommendation letters. Thereafter, they send to the provincial appraisal committee headed by the provincial permanent secretary,” he said.

“That appraisal committee then approves which application should be awarded with youth employment. The National appraisal committee then approves and awards the empowerment. If they are saying that it was done uphazzaredly and that the right thing was not done, the same people who were approving, they are the same people approving now. So how are they going to do it better? The Minister does not sit on any committee which approves applications. A Minister is only able to attend to appeals which are done by the youth who want to be empowered and in my time, no one appealed to my office. The same people who were approving then, are the same people approving now so how are they going to do it differently?”

Mulenga said as far as he knew, artists were providing receipts to prove that they had made some purchases which were in line with their contracts.

“It is actually surprising that if it was done uphazzaredly, then why are officers failing to answer to those queries? The thing which surprises me is that I was reading the auditor’s report some few days ago. You would find that the Ministry would say some of the youths are not paying. But if you ask, the youths produce receipts that we have been paying. So I do not know why correct information is not being heard,” he said.

“If people are not paying, why not follow them up? There is a contract which defines the relationship that the youths have with the Ministry. You can follow them and make them pay because that is a revolving fund which needs to be paid back and given to another youth in need. There was no part which said that you should indicate which party you belong to. This was done in districts and provinces and the headquarters is only in Lusaka. Committees were approving that.”

Mulenga said an initiative to monitor the performance of various projects was curtailed.

“You know where the biggest problem came in? It is when they stopped the super-internship. If you look at the concept note, we employed interns and there were also super-interns. Those super-interns, their job was to make sure that they follow those who have been empowered and push them to pay. That was their job but the programme was curtailed prematurely. So I do not know who has been put in place to follow up the youths to pay. They should follow up the officers who were approving. The officers who were approving the applications are still in the Ministry and some are coming from other Ministries,” said Mulenga.

“So those officers are the ones who approved and they should explain why they approved when there was a laid down procedure of what should be done. The Minister who is there now, I think it is very rare that you have sight of the applications unless there is an appeal to his office or there is a problem. Applications are done in the districts and approvals are done in the provinces by provincial permanent secretaries through their provincial committees. So if it was done uphazzaredly, I mean why did they recommend for the release of the empowerment fund?”