LUSAKA, Sept 19 (Reuters) – Zambian President Edgar Lungu fired a cabinet minister in charge of social welfare funds on Wednesday after Britain and Finland froze aid over suspicions that $4 million of funding may have been misused.
The money was channelled into the social cash transfer scheme, a donor-supported programme under which the government relays money to vulnerable households in rural areas.
Lungu’s spokesman Amos Chanda said Olipa Phiri had been made Community Development and Social Welfare Minister, replacing Emerine Kabanshi.
“The new minister has been given a clear mission to get down to work and clean up the mess that has been identified in the administration of the social cash transfer,” Chanda said.
Kabanshi has not made any public comment on the affair, and Reuters was unable to reach her by phone.
Chanda said Phiri would work with the auditor-general and other investigative agencies to ensure that accountability was restored.
Preliminary investigations revealed that the state-owned company engaged by the government to distribute the money had used part of it to pay its retirees and refurbish offices, Chanda said.
Chanda said on Tuesday that Lungu had ordered an inquiry four months ago into possible misuse of the aid funds since 2012, and a number of suspects would be prosecuted.