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Cash transfer scheme lacks transparency

QUESTIONS have arisen over the distribution of funds under the Harmonised Social Cash Transfer programme (HSCT)




QUESTIONS have arisen over the distribution of funds under the Harmonised Social Cash Transfer programme (HSCT), which is supposed to help ultra-poor, food insecure and labour-constrained households through cash transfers, amid growing food insecurity in urban areas, The NewsHawks has learnt.

Objectives of the HSCT programme include enabling recipient households to increase consumption above the poverty line, reduce the number of extremely poor households and help beneficiaries avoid risky coping strategies such as child labour and early marriage.

Zimbabwe, which is reeling under the El Niño-induced drought, adjusted its appeal for aid from US$2.2 billion in March, to US$3.3 billion to mitigate the effects of drought.

According to a 2024 report by the Zimbabwe Livelihoods Assessment Committee (ZimLAC), 35% of the urban population is food insecure, which translates to 1 732 770 people.

Urban residents’ associations who spoke to The NewsHawks said none of their members had received cash transfers from the government.

The Mutare Ratepayers and Residents Association (MRRA) said none of its members directly received money through the programme.

“From the Association I work with not a single person has received the money despite some of the members having secured the Net One line which was required,” said David Mutambirwa, the MRRA programmes director.

The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) also said that while there has been talk about people getting assistance through the fund in rural areas, urban areas were being left out.

“As we have observed, there are parts of the country that have received the transfers. But as it stands, in urban areas, we have never received such funds even over the past four years,” said Ruben Akili, the CHRA director.

“But we have heard this in media reports and some legislators speaking around the cash transfer programme. But we have limited information on cash transfer programmes. And even the recipients themselves, we have never heard any.”

Masvingo United Residents and Ratepayers Alliance (MURRA) said there have been inconsistencies in the running of the programme.

“I have checked with our members most of them did not get the transfers despite having their names listed and instructed to One wallet accounts. But some say a few with links to the ministry and who were also not struggling benefitted from the programme. A few elites linked to the system, the majority of poor residents are yet to recieve the cash,” said Godfrey Mtimba, spokesperson of MURRA.

Distribution of the HCST programme

The HSCT programme has been unevenly distributed, with 30 districts have been covered by the initiative since its launch in 2011, as shown by a fact sheet by the Parliament of Zimbabwe dated 10 April 2024.

Currently, the programme has 75 000 benef iciary households registered in 30 districts and aims to reach 97 000 beneficiary households in 33 districts by the end of 2025.

The selection process is informed by the Rural Livelihoods Assessment (RLA) reports of the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVac), which evaluates the incidence of poverty in all of Zimbabwe's districts.

It classifies the elderly, orphaned and other vulnerable children, the chronically ill, those with impairments, and those with high reliance ratios who are "food poor" and "labour-constrained" among the vulnerable individuals chosen for this programme.

The programme uses electronic payments (EcoCash) instead of cash-in-transit (CIT) payments.

The HSCT has also been under scrutiny, with acting Auditor-General Rheah Kujinga’s Appropriation Accounts, Finance and Revenue Statements and Fund Accounts, produced late last year, saying the manual being used by the programme was last updated in 2012, when the ministry was paying hard cash to beneficiaries.

“The payment method has since changed to electronic transfers hence the manual is no controls longer relevant. This was contrary to section 157(2) (a) of the Public Finance Management (Treasury Instructions) 2019 which states that it is the responsibility of Accounting Officers to put in place a cost-effective system of internal controlsthat addresses the Ministry's risks.

“The absence of an updated Operational Manual may result in inconsistencies occurring in the implementation of the programme. This may hinder the achievement of its objectives. T he Ministry should ensure that the Harmonised Social Cash Transfer Programme manual is updated for effective implementation of the programme,” reads the report.

Urban cash transfer programme

The government says it is coming up with the Cash for Cereal Transfer Programme to help cushion urban populations to cushion older person-headed households, child-headed households, chronically ill, persons with disabilities and female-headed households with high dependency ratios in urban areas.

The programme is set to disburse cash to be used for purchasing cereals or maize-meal in urban areas instead of distributing grain as is the case in rural areas.

Community-based registrations in targeted hotspots using Community Child Care Workers (CCWs).

“In line with the mantra, leaving no-one and no place behind, it was seen fit to come up with an effective response plan to cater for the most food insecure urban population. This is to be done taking into cognizance the uniqueness of targeting urban population in comparison to rural population. Since the urban economy is cash based, the proposal is to respond using cash transfers,” reads the strategy paper by Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister July Moyo, availed to The NewsHawks.

“In order to identify the food insecure individuals in the urban areas, guidance will be drawn from the results of national assessments conducted by the Zimbabwe Livelihood Assessment Committee (ZimLAC) in 2024, triangulated with information from district profiles, poverty assessments, among other surveys.”

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