THE United Kingdom has confirmed cutting aid to Zambia.
High Commissioner Fergus Cochrane-Dyet has said aid to Zambia will only resume once audit results are known, according to his a tweet after chief government spokesperson Dora Siliya dismissed a story that the UK’s Department for International Development had stopped funding the social cash transfer programme.
The Africa Confidential has reported cuts in UK’s bilateral aid to Zambia following reports of corruption.
But Siliya, during a joint media briefing in Lusaka with Central Province minister Sydney Mushanga and Brian Mundubile for Northern Province, claimed that the relationship between the Zambian government and DFID was intact.
She was responding to queries for clarity on whether DFID had withdrawn funding for the social cash transfer programme.
Siliya said the Zambian government was committed to the programme.
According to the Africa Confidential, the government was plundering social spending to meet debt service payments.
In its September 14 issue titled: “Graft worsens cash squeeze”, the AC reported that fears that embezzlement had hit government departments have caused donors to suspend payments.
AC reported that the report by the Auditor General, which raised the alarm with DFID last year, was not made public.
“Payments are understood to have been made to shell companies and the auditors wish to speak to more than 400 individuals,” AC understands. “Until it has some satisfactory answers, DFID has suspended all payments. DFID has also suspended its funding of cash transfers to poor families because US$4.7 million is believed to have been diverted at the Zambian post office, which administers the payments. DFID has even demanded restitution. Donors provide a third of the total. The scheme was believed to be a great success and President Edgar Lungu requested that the number of recipients be increased from 257,000 households, the figure for 2017, to 700,000 this year. However, the increase was put on hold because enquiries revealed that many of the intended recipients were not paid and that the scheme has been subject to fraud.”
But Siliya said Zambia’s relationship with DFID was not through Africa Confidential.
“I am sitting with two ministers here and they are all Cabinet ministers. And that has not come to my attention at least and the Minister of Community Development was here just over a week ago to give a statement. Clearly, even by the commitment of the President [Lungu] to the social cash transfer, I think as far as government is concerned, we are committed to this programme,” she said.
“If DFID has issued that statement through Africa Confidential, well I would suggest that DFID has an office in Zambia. And all those queries should be directed to DFID. Our relation with DFID is not through Africa Confidential. Why don’t you go and ask them? Verify. If DFID gives you a comment then you can come to government. As far as we are concerned, our relation with DFID is not done through Africa Confidential. And I think you should go and ask DFID. Like I have said, we choose to ignore some publications such as Africa Confidential because it is one thing to be the media platform that should report a balanced side of the story…. I think you should go and ask DFID. When there is a change in our relations with DFID, the Ministry of Finance would give as a statement. Let them give you the statement, then we will respond as government.”
However, High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet stated: “Correct that UK frozen all bilateral funding to Zambian government in light of potential concerns until audit results known. #UKAid takes zero tolerance approach to fraud and corruption.”