$40m for needy households

The Sunday Mail

Sharon Munjenjema

Government will next week resume electronic cash transfers amounting to $40 million to more than 60 000 vulnerable households to cushion them against the current economic challenges and rising cost of living.

The exercise, which is administered through the harmonised social cash transfer programme (HSCT), was discontinued a few years ago owing to cash shortages.

An additional $63 million has also been released to clear school fees arrears accrued through the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) programme, which provides assistance to 415 900 disadvantaged children countrywide.

Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza told The Sunday Mail Government has since identified a platform through which the cash transfers would be made.

“Currently, a new e-payment system is being put in place within the next month after Econet won a tender to disburse HSCT funds to beneficiaries in various districts via the EcoCash platform. A total of 62 017 beneficiary households, who are food-poor and labour-constrained, will benefit. Currently, $39 472 644 – which is being reviewed upwards – will be disbursed,” said Dr Nzenza.

“Treasury continues to release funds to offset outstanding (BEAM) arrears. So far, an amount of $63 million awaits disbursement into school accounts once they have complied with vendor-coding requirements set by the Treasury as a new system.

“BEAM will, therefore, clear all arrears owing to date this month.”

In her latest report, Auditor-General Mrs Mildred Chiri said Treasury last year recalled $9 million that had been allocated for the HSCT programme, as the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare failed to release it to beneficiaries.

However, Dr Nzenza indicated that the department responsible for the disbursements failed to get timely authorisation for payments from the Reserve Bank of

Zimbabwe (RBZ).

The HSCT began in 2012 to support food-insecure households in rural areas.

The facility is targeted at households living below the poverty datum line, especially families that do not have able-bodied members who are fit for work.

BEAM arrears

Official statistics indicate that notwithstanding the $23 million that was released by Treasury towards BEAM last year, school fees arrears had soared to $54,5 million by December.

The 18-year programme is designed to subsidise examination fees and applicable levies for orphaned or vulnerable primary and secondary school children.

The 2019 Zimbabwe Vulnerable Assessment Committee (ZimVac) report revealed that Government remains the major provider of support to vulnerable communities in need of food assistance countrywide.

The report stated that of vulnerable households that received food assistance in 2018-19, 56 percent got support from Government, 13 percent from non-governmental organisations and the United Nations.

Three percent received support from churches, while 16 percent were aided by relatives within rural areas.

Relatives in urban areas covered 18 percent of the vulnerable, while 11 percent got succour from remittances from outside the country.

Apart from BEAM and HSCT, Government is also carrying out a Food Deficit Mitigation Programme from which 600 000 households are benefiting, a Public Assistance Programme for the elderly and disabled, and the Assisted Medical Treatment Orders (AMTOs) targeting needy persons who are assisted to get medical attention at State-owned institutions.