A Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare official has told parliamentarians that they were understaffed, overwhelmed and concerned with saving lives resulting in massive flouting of procedures which resulted in serious irregularities in the handling of COVID-19 funds.
Responding to the Auditor General’s report which exposed massive abuse of COVID-19 funds, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Simon Masanga said during the peak of the pandemic, they were concerned with saving lives which resulted in flouting of procedures.
“When Covid -19 started, we didn’t know how much damage it would cause. South Africa and Botswana decongested their prisons by sending back all Zimbabwean convicts and all of a sudden we had to quarantine over 3000 people daily at Plumtree and Beitbridge border posts. Considering that the ministry is short-staffed and we were not prepared.
“The volume of paper to be processed was overwhelming. At most, there was one person from the ministry to run a quarantine. We relied on interns so some of the errors were very possible,” said Masanga.
According to the Auditor General’s report, some companies were paid money but never supplied the products while some were paid in excess of invoiced amounts.
Masanga said they will follow up on such mismanagement and misappropriation of public funds.
“As a ministry we want transparency. We were not prepared for this pandemic and this is also happening in other countries. We are following up to make sure every cent is accounted for,” Masanga added.
The Auditor General unearthed serious irregularities in the handling of COVID-19 funds in the country, citing rampant abuse and corruption on the disbursement of coronavirus funds and other resources.
The detailed report, tabled by parliament, shows that allowances meant for food insecure households, disabled people, the elderly and child-headed families were not received by the beneficiaries due to various reasons, including duplicate payments and disbursement of funds to people with fictitious names.