The Minister of Finance and Economic Development Dr Thapelo Matsheka has promised to submit to Parliament the financial audit of the controversial Covid-19 national relief fund.
Dr Matsheka who has been going through baptism of fire from the opposition colleagues after delivering a budget speech last week over alleged misappropriation of funds says the audit is coming. During the budget speech, Matsheka announced that the government’s foreign reserves lost P12 billion in year with his pronouncement drawing mixed emotions with some faulting loss to corruption. But Matsheka said such funds have been not misappropriated, indicating that they have been used to finance imports and other government obligations at period characterized by Covid-19.
Answering question in parliament regarding the funds from Palapye MP Onneetse Ramogapi, Matsheka said the office Auditor General has taken a performance audit of the Covid-19 fund. “An amount of one hundred and thirty nine million, six hundred and twenty thousand, nine hundred and thirteen Pula (P139, 620,913) has been donated to the COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Fund as at 8th February 2021 and it forms part of the overall credit to the Fund,” said Matsheka.
The funds, are used to finance the medical supplies, food hampers, contract tracing expenses, and wage subsidy costs. Donations to the fight against COVID-19 were mostly in-kind, he averred. He said following the pronouncement of state of emergency in April 2020, government has contributed total of four billion, three hundred million Pula (P4, 300,000,000) for mitigation measures.
Specifically, the funds are distributed as follows, an initial amount of two billion Pula (P2, 000,000,000) was earmarked for health supplies, wage subsidy, psycho-social support, and relocation of the diaspora. “A further sum of two billion, three hundred and forty million Pula (P2, 300,000,000) was approved through supplementary budget (Financial Paper No.1 of 2020/2021) for furtherance of the fight against COVID-19 pandemic. Out of this amount P1,300,000,000 was provided under the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development for stabilisation of businesses; P1,000,000,000 under the Ministry of Health for procurement of personal protective equipment for frontline staff, laboratory commodities (test kits and their reagents) and other equipment to be used at the ports of entry and isolation centers,” he added.
The outspoken Palapye MP Ramogapi had asked the minister to disclose the amount, equipment and any other assistance donated to the COVID–19 Fund and indicate how it has been utilised. He also asked the minister when parliament will be availed with audit of financials of the fund which is a public fund, and it is supposed to be audited for the purposes of accountability and good governance.
Due to rampant allegations of funds misappropriation since start of state of public emergency, opposition MPs fear that the audit would be very unclean with lot of money not accounted for.The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development which was responsible for the food basket relief programme has been fingered as the epicenter of funds embezzlement amid Covid-19.
So, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi last year July through the Presidential Directive Cab (19 (A) 2020 at time ordered that there should be no Phase II of Covid-19 Food Relief Response Programme.
Masisi directed for a probe regarding the accountability of funds of a controversial food basket funds utilisation is expected to be a hot topic for debate in the upcoming financial audit report. The controversial food aid was allocated P114 million to distribute food for three months during time of state of emergency but shock rose when the funds were said to be depleted in a month.
Local Government Minister Eric Molale and the food coordinator Gabriel Seeletso at the time found themselves in a very hot soup having to explain the rationale behind quick exhaustion of funds.
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