Editor's Comment

Social cash transfer abusers must pay

ZAMBIA, like many other countries, recognises the important role social protection plays in promoting food security and alleviating poverty among vulnerable groups.
While there are many initiatives under social protection, Zambia, with the financial support of its development partners, has from 2003 been running the social cash transfer as its flagship initiative.
Social cash transfer has been recognised as an effective way of reducing extreme poverty and preventing its transmission across generations.
In Zambia, many testimonies have come to the fore of how social cash transfer is transforming lives of people, especially in rural areas.
Evidence from impact evaluations indicates that social cash transfer comes with a number of benefits extending beyond the direct recipient of the transfer to the wider family.
For the recipient, there is evidence to suggest that cash transfers promote self-esteem, social status and empowerment.
Social cash transfer also improves food security and nutritional status, not just for the transfer recipient, but also for other household members.
Receipt of cash also reduces absolute poverty and narrows the gap between the haves and have-nots, promoting equity.
For many beneficiaries their productivity has been enhanced through acquisition of productive assets.
Social cash transfer has also proved to be an effective empowerment tool by providing necessary capital to allow beneficiaries to participate in other social services, including health care and education.
Given the benefits that social cash transfer presents, it is expected of any progressive citizen to hope for more people to benefit from the initiative.
This is because the more people benefit from social cash transfer, the greater the impact on poverty reduction.
In this year’s budget, Government has allocated K2.3 billion towards social protection with a view to increasing social cash transfer beneficiaries from 590,000 last year to 700,000 this year at a cost of K721.1 million.
It is, however, distressing that while Government and its partners are working to ensure that as many people as possible are salvaged out of poverty, some disgruntled elements somewhere in the system are busy abusing the funds.
The head of State was recently informed to his annoyance that K43,818,164 still remains unpaid to social cash transfer beneficiaries in six provinces – Luapula, North-Western, Muchinga, Western, Northern and Copperbelt.
This has put the country and the sustenance of the social cash transfer in a difficult situation because donors will not put money where there is evidence of abuse.
Why should the country and the poor, who are the major beneficiaries of social cash transfer, suffer such consequences because of a few greedy individuals?
This is why we stand by President Edgar Lungu’s directive to Secretary to the Cabinet Roland Msiska to take a decisive action to curb all malpractices in the administration of the programme.
President Lungu has given Dr Msiska a seven-day ultimatum in which to curb mismanagement in the programme aimed at alleviating poverty among the most vulnerable groups.
Certainly, it cannot be business as usual when lives of the most vulnerable and the fight against poverty are at stake.
There is urgent need to not only seal loopholes in the system but also bring all culprits to book.
“I want a speedy and decisive investigation into the matter to establish the status of the disbursement of the social cash transfer programme. Whereas cases of abuse requiring criminal investigations may arise, such cases must be reported to relevant agencies and where administrative action is required, I want to see prompt action taken,” President Lungu said.
The head of State’s reaction is justifiable considering that such maladministration is not only tarnishing the good image of the country but hurting the poor.
As demanded by the President, we expect speedy investigations to get to the bottom of the matter and find a lasting solution.
We also expect relevant ministries to expeditiously act on the President’s directive to engage donors to assure them of the remedial measures Government has been undertaking since suspected cases of misuse of the money surfaced earlier this year.
As a country that is grappling with high poverty levels, we cannot afford to lose donors who have been supportive in the provision of social cash transfer in our continued bid to alleviate poverty.
The poverty burden is too huge for the country to handle alone, given the limited resources and mostly competed for by numerous needs.

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