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Health Minister Jonas Chanda defends himself amid alleged misuse of over K6.3 billion Covid-19 funds

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Minister of Health Jonas Chanda has dispelled allegations that his ministry misappropriated over K6.3 billion Covid-19 funds which was pledged by cooperating partners.

Dr. Chanda said it was not correct to allege that the Ministry of Health misappropriated the funds which both multilateral and bilateral cooperating partners pledged for support to complement government’s response efforts in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

He was responding to a question raised by Kalabo central Member of Parliament, Chinga Miyutu who wanted to know whether the alleged misappropriation of over K6.3 billion Covid-19 funds will not impede the fight against the pandemic.

Dr. Chanda said in response to the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, government engaged a number of cooperating partners who pledged support but not in form of direct financial backing.

The money which cooperating partners had pledged to provide was to be utilized by respective implementing units and was earmarked to be channeled through institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and Non- governmental organizations (NGOs).

He explained that the cooperating partners did not envisage to disburse the said support through the Ministry of Health but to undertake consultations with government on materials that were required to be purchased and supplied to government.

“The cooperating partners indicated that their support was not going to be provided as direct finances to government but as in-kind in form of support materials. For instance, the Federal Republic of Germany pledged to disburse its support through WHO and UNICEF,” he clarified.

Dr. Chanda explained that through these agencies, Germany purchased and supplied personal protective equipment (PPEs), testing kits, water chemical materials and other forms of supplies that are being used in the fight against the pandemic.

He told the parliament today that the interim report on the audits of the Auditor General on the utilization of Covid-19 resources was before the committee and the established parliamentary practice and procedure.

He pointed out that the details of the observations and recommendations of the committee will be known after the report has been tabled and adopted by the house.

The Minister of Health added that the Auditor General has been requested by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to also undertake a forensic audit on the utilization of the Covid-19 funds.

“I want to assure this house and through this house to inform the nation that President Edgar Lungu has demanded for total transparency and accountability in this forensic audit and the report will be availed and tabled in parliament and to the public,” he said.

He added that, “on the material dates of the report of 31 July, 2020, the stated amounts remained as pledges as no amounts or finances or materials have been disbursed to government by any of the cooperating partners”.

He further informed the house that as of 30th December 2020, out of the nearly K6.4 billion which was pledged, cooperating partners had informed the Ministry of Finance that K1.9 billion worth of materials had been disbursed.

Dr. Chanda stated that the disbursed materials were in form of machinery, equipment, water treatment chemicals and other forms of materials that are being disbursed mainly through UNICEF, WHO and NGOs.

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