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K38.9 billion initiative under ACB radar

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Moses Mkandawire

The Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) has said it is monitoring the management of the K38.9 billion Covid-19 Social Cash Transfer Programme that the government is implementing through the Ministry of Disaster Management Affairs and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.

ACB Director-General, Reyneck Matemba, said there is potential for abuse of resources as their preliminary findings after monitoring the initial phase of the programme found suspected ghost beneficiaries in the identification process.

Matemba said ACB engaged the two ministries on the bureau’s ‘issues’ with the programme.

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“We saw a loophole because we managed to monitor the initial identification of the beneficiaries and we noted that some of them were ghost beneficiaries.

At first, we thought that since we were not included in the issue of Covid-19, we should not be concerned about what happens there, but we changed our mind and said we need to come in,” Matemba said.

He added that the graft-busting body will continue monitoring the programme which has since been pended.

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In April this year, the government announced plans to assist vulnerable households in cities with funds amounting to K35,000 per household to cushion them against the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

K38.9 billion was set aside for the programme targeting 172,000 households for a period of six months.

City councils were identifying beneficiaries and government stressed that the support was not from the Covid-19 basket but from development partners.

Meanwhile, weighing in on the programme, social commentator Moses Mkandawire, who also heads the Church and Society Programme of the Livingstonia Synod, argued that businesses have slowed down and that people need the money which government says is intact.

“Malawians were already informed that they would be receiving K35,000 per month for six months so it would not make sense to cancel it. Much as there hasn’t been a restrictive lockdown in the country, if you look at the business trend you will discover that the business itself has really gone down,” Mkandawire said.

But another social commentator, Emily Mkamanga, is of the view that the money should be channelled to other initiatives.

“Covid-19 has been with us for a while now and one wonders what is delaying the process of disbursing the money. Again this money was to be given out because of the lockdown and now that it was not enforced, it would be very difficult to identify beneficiaries,” Mkamanga said.

Minister of Population Planning and Social Welfare, Clara Makungwa, recently admitted in an interview that the scheme missed the target due to political elements and delayed formulation of implementing procedures.

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