Treasury recalls $9 million poor children’s fund after Ministry sits on it

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi

LABOUR and Social Services Ministry officials failed to pass on $9 million which was set aside by Treasury for the upkeep of vulnerable children throughout the country, a report by Auditor General Mildred Chiri has revealed.

According to the report, the omission worsened the plight of the beneficiaries who were left exposed to common risks such as child labour and early child marriages through desperation.

“The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare did not disburse the Harmonised Social Cash Transfer (HSCT), which is a transfer of cash entitlements to vulnerable households in order to reduce household poverty, protect and enhance the livelihood of all vulnerable children so that they refrain from risky coping strategies such as child labour and early child marriages,” the report said.

“The $9 559 722 earmarked for the HSCT programme was recalled by the Treasury on December 31, 2018 after realising that no disbursements were made thus depriving the beneficiaries of a better standard of life.

“The Ministry did not initiate appropriate measures to ensure that beneficiaries received their pay outs.”

The AG’s report also found out that the Ministry did not have a clear policy for the management and distribution of the donations.

“There was poor accountability for goods donated to the Ministry by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) held at Northcourt Training Institute,” the report said.

“Items donated were inconsistently being recorded either as bales, sacks, bags, by quantities or by weight instead of maintaining a standard unit of measurement of classification of the goods.”

Further, Northcourt Training Institutes’ personnel received the donated goods without physically verifying the quantities against the Issues Vouchers raised by ZIMRA.

“During a physical inspection of the donated goods, I noted that some of the bales, sacks and bags of the donated clothes and shoes were open and their contents were scattered on the storeroom floors,” Chiri said.

“Although the Northcourt Training Institute has a stores register in place, the register did not include vital information such as full description (specification), quantities received, quantities issued, running balances and signatures of the recipient.

“I (AG Chiri) noted that there were over 200 bales of clothes and shoes, shoes, 16 brand new tyres and 1 200 second hand tyres of different sizes that were being kept at the institute, of which these goods were being damaged by rodents and deteriorating in quality due to adverse weather conditions,” she reported.

“Failure to consistently record items comprises the accountability of the same and without physical verification, it would be difficult to ascertain whether the received donations were properly and accounted for.

“Donated goods are exposed to misappropriation if the Ministry does not put adequate controls for delivery, receipts, recording and custody of goods.”