MASERU – The Ministry of Social Development has lamented delays by Treasury in providing it with funds which restricts its ability to performing optimally. Mankhatho Linko, the Director Planning in the ministry told Public Eye this week that Covid-19 response funds were only provided in January and due to time constraints a large part of the funds were not utilised.
Among others, the ministry was provided with a budget of around M86 million for the child grant programme but due to delays of funding allocation and long payment process, none of the funds were used so they had to return all the money when the 2020/2021 financial year came to an end.
She further noted that the ministry also received about M133 million for public cash assistance where, among others, the elderly aged between 60 and 69 were paid M831 per month for three consecutive months to alleviate the impact of Covid-19 on their livelihoods.
From that budget, only around M88 million was used while about M45 million was returned to the consolidated fund. Linko said the ministry of social development was mandated to administer the payment of grants to the elderly aged between 60 and 69 who are vulnerable and are not getting any grant from government.
“Payments were made and 31,954 received their payments whereas 768 missed their payments and 915 were excluded from the payment list. About 863 of these people were not registered. “Although funds were provided for 34,500, registration in some areas did not go ahead as planned because communities wanted everyone to be registered but the criterion was based on poverty. Maseru also started registration later than other districts. Efforts to pay the remaining beneficiaries are ongoing,” she said.
Linko further noted that the government and the European Union provided the ministry with funds to vertically and horizontally expand the child grant programme. She said through the fund, beneficiaries were provided with a M1500 once-off payment under vertical expansion.
“These funds are provided over and above the normal grant. Enrolment for additional 6,944 households was completed and payments are ongoing. Beneficiaries will each received M756 as part of drought/Covid-19 relief.
“We also managed to provide food packages to all 76 councils selecting 300 beneficiaries per councils amounting to M15 million. “The ministry of social development facilitated the provision of food vouchers to 12,000 Basotho living in South Africa amounting to M4 million. About 11,627 food vouchers amounting to M350 each have been redeemed to date while about 373 coupons have not yet been redeemed,” she noted.
“Public Assistance beneficiaries received top-ups as a response to Covid-19. Each household was supposed to receive additional M870 for two quarters but funds were returned to the consolidated fund due to time constraints.
“There were 10,000 new beneficiaries that were to be added but the activity was affected by the end of year closure. “The major challenge to fully implementing this activity was late release of funds to the ministry that impacted on this activity’s completion. Funds had to be returned to the Consolidated Fund while we were in the process of paying,” she said.
With a lot of money being returned to the consolidated fund, the ministry still faces challenges in assisting people with disabilities with assistive devices due to inadequate funding.
For the past financial year, the ministry only managed to provide assistive devices including 109 wheelchairs, 162 crutches, 24 walking frames and 400 white canes to people with disabilities around the country’s 10 districts. Linko said a total of 695 devices were provided, noting that there are still more people in need of assistive devices especially limbs and wheelchairs but the ministry cannot afford to help them because of inadequate funding.
She further noted that the ministry is struggling to establish enough community development projects due to inadequate funding for the programme. She said the main purpose of livelihood programmes is to help vulnerable people to improve their livelihoods.
She noted that through the programme, communities are provided with funding, and skills such as financial literacy through training or coaching. “There are 60 existing community development projects currently and 15 new projects. Some of these projects are implemented with the support from Standard Lesotho Bank.
“The new projects are in all districts and projects and include crop production (beans), Merino Sheep, poultry, small business, candle making, wood work and crafting, bakery, bee keeping, communal gardens and crutches production,” she added.
As why the ministry does not use funds it returns to the consolidated fund to address some of the ministry’s financial challenges, the Principal Secretary in the ministry, Mantseki Sekete, underlined that it is illegal to use public funds for unintended purposes.
She said public funds are regulated by the Public Financial Management Act 2011. According to the Act if money is budgeted for a certain purpose but the project is not carried such money has to be returned to the government’s purse and cannot be used for any other purpose.
“The biggest challenge is not getting funds on anticipated time. We received Covid-19 response funds in January, and the financial year starts in April and ends in May. This gave us only two months to process payments and collect data of beneficiaries hence why some money was returned,” she said.