Ministry result

Ministry sinks millions in Covid-19 benefits on undeserving townspeople

HARARE — Some incompetent Social Welfare Ministry officials tasked with distributing Covid-19 benefits to the poor at the height of the pandemic funneled millions of dollars to undeserving city dwellers.

This was revealed in a report by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) following its investigation into the rollout of the government’s humanitarian programme.

The funds were disbursed by the Treasury to ease the financial woes of vulnerable people after a government imposed a lockdown decree that kept many sectors of the business economy away.

According to the report, approximately ZWL$89 million disbursed by the Treasury to be distributed to beneficiaries through the Ministry of Social Affairs through NetOne’s OneMoney platform has disappeared.

In the report, the department was also singled out for failing to compile reconciliations and confirmation reports.

PAC is led by Brian Dube, while other members include Ozias Bvute, Temba Mliswa, Energy Mutodi and Dexter Nduna.

The committee said the failure of ministry officials to submit assessment records to the auditor general “is clear evidence that proper procedures were not followed”.

“As a result, those who were not deserving could have benefited at the expense of those who deserved the allowances.

“The Kwekwe and Zvishavane District Social Development Offices (DSDOs) failed to present, for an audit inspection, documentary evidence showing that urban food beneficiaries who received cash disbursements totaling $187,000 and $3,806,300 during the months of April, May, July and August 2020 respectively were assessed to determine whether or not they were qualified to participate in the urban food program,” the report read.

It emerged that the ministry was handing out stipends to people who approached its officials, a process that could have been abused.

“Ministry officials indicated that the eligibility criteria for individuals were in two parts as follows; self-targeting, where applicants go to welfare offices and ask for help and are screened after a means test; and community targeting, where communities participate in the identification of eligible beneficiaries under the guidance of officials who then carry out verification exercises.

Asked why the district welfare offices had not complied with the requirements stipulated in the statutes setting out the criteria for selecting beneficiaries of the urban food programme, ministry officials admitted that for community targeting and in all targeting criteria, there should have been rigorous follow-up of beneficiaries to ensure those in need and deserving people were covered.

“The Committee was informed that the Ministry had recently updated the Food Deficit Mitigation Program Manual for the Rural Food Assistance Program and that it was the same module that had been used for urban areas. , but given the difference in dichotomy between rural and urban areas, the Ministry had realized that they could not be the same and therefore different textbooks.