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Veritas criticises Social Welfare Ministry for failing to fully utilise budget

Legal think tank Veritas has criticised the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare for failure to fully utilise its 2021 budget allocation and also failure to relay donated equipment to targeted recipients.

The Ministry failed to exhaust its share allocated in the year 2021 budget even when there were millions of people who were in dire need of assistance considering that the country was being ravaged by COVID-19.

This was revealed in the Report on Appropriation Accounts, Finance, and Revenue Statements and Fund Accounts by Auditor General Mildred Chiri.

In its latest publication, Veritas noted that the Ministry failed to fully utilise its allocated budget. It said:

Ministry failed to fully utilise its allocated budget. The Ministry was allocated a total of ZW$ 7,382,629,000 in the 2021 financial year and its total expenditure was ZW$ 5,867,713,446.

This means at the end of the year, the Ministry had ZW$1,515,915,554 that was unspent, which is disturbing considering how many families, pensioners and persons living with disabilities had to go without food at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how many schoolchildren had to leave school through non-payment of fees.

On education assistance, the ministry did not follow laid down procedures in paying school fees under the BEAM programme. Said Veritas:

The Auditor-General noted that the Ministry did not follow laid down procedures in paying school fees under the BEAM programme, which is designed to facilitate the enrolment of orphaned and vulnerable children in school by paying their school fees, school levies and exam fees.

The Ministry made overpayments amounting to $794,842 under the BEAM programme, to a number of schools due to a lack of scrutiny of invoices upon payment.

In response, the Ministry said that the overpayments were being recovered.

Veritas also observed that the Social Welfare Ministry failed to correct past mistakes and repeated them again in 2021. It said:

The Auditor-General made a worrying note that the Ministry had not addressed most of the issues raised in the previous financial year.

Of the seven issues raised, the Ministry had addressed only one; three were partially addressed, and three had not been addressed at all.

For example; double payments dating back to 2018 had been partially recovered, but more double payments were made in 2021.

Expenditure reconciliations were not done again in 2021, payment vouchers were again not submitted for audit and for the third year running the Ministry did not have an information technology policy or an IT plan.

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