business

June 10, 2022

NEO SENOKO

2 min read

M50 million Covid relief fund probed

M50 million Covid relief fund probed

Head of the delivery unit in the Prime Minister’s office, Chaba Mokuku

Story highlights

  • Only M15 million was distributed
  • Applications from all 10 districts were received

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ONLY M15 million of the M50 million government’s Covid-19 relief fund has been disbursed to beneficiaries, a cause for concern as beneficiaries are worried that the rest of the money might have been stolen.

In 2020 in a move to mitigate the adverse effects of the national lockdown, the government launched the M50 million Private Sector Covid-19 Relief Fund, through the Lesotho Enterprise Assistance Programme (LEAP).

Head of the delivery unit in the Prime Minister’s office, Chaba Mokuku, however, assured a media briefing on Monday that his books were clean and had been audited by the Auditor General.

His office, he said had accounted for every cent and had since requested additional M2.76 million from the Ministry of Finance for distribution to qualifying businesses.

Mr Mokuku said his office had only been used to distribute the funds as the list of qualifying businesses came from the ministry of small businesses.

“We are just a channel through which the money is distributed,” he said, adding that applications from all the 10 districts of Lesotho were submitted with the assistance of organisations such as the Private Sector Foundation, SMME Network, the Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI).

A total 1 018 formal businesses received M9.29 million and 11 455 informal businesses shared M5.72 million, each pocketing M500.

At the moment, Mr Mokuku said 3 003 applications had been received from the informal businesses and 165 formal businesses were still waiting for funding.

“Another 319 formal businesses who applied, failed to qualify as they could not meet the qualifying processes,” he said.

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Amongst other requirements, formal businesses need to have at least two years of existence since the lockdown period, a tax clearance as well as clear financial statements.

Delays in the disbursement of the Covid funds have raised tensions with accusations leveled at government that it had failed on its promise or officials might as well have stolen the money.

The Chairman of the Maseru Street Vendors Association, Molefi Paneng previously told Maseru Metro that the reshuffling of cabinet ministers had been one of the factors that contributed to an inefficient distribution of the Covid funds.

Beneficiaries including street vendors are among the most vulnerable groups that looked forward to the fund. Faced with the economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus, the majority live from hand to mouth.

In June last year, a group of street vendors in Maseru took to the streets, embarking on illegal protests, demanding the release of the Covid-19 relief packages as promised by government.

During the protest, several shops were vandalised but police were quick to intervene and dispersed the protesters. 

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