There is little hope that all beneficiaries of the government’s Covid-19 Urban Cash Intervention safety net may start accessing the cash by the end of this month amid worsening impact of the pandemic, it has emerged.
Spot-checks by The Nation this week found that Mzuzu, Zomba and Lilongwe city councils finalised processing of beneficiaries and were currently verifying the names with mobile phone network providers. On the other hand, Blantyre City Council is yet to get the final list of beneficiaries from government.
The fund is expected to disburse K35 000 monthly for three months to 185 248 Malawians in Mzuzu, Lilongwe, Blantyre and Zomba beginning January 2021.
Cumulatively, at K35 000, it means government will spend about K6.48 billion monthly and roughly about K19.45 billion by March to have all the targeted beneficiaries receive the social protection package.
In an interview yesterday, Mzuzu City Council spokesperson McDonald Gondwe, whose city will have 18 493 beneficiaries, said the process has delayed, but confirmed that final verification was in progress.
He said they are currently verifying names of beneficiaries with mobile phone service providers because beneficiaries will be receiving the money through Airtel Money and TNM Mpamba.
Said Gondwe: “We want to verify that the name of the beneficiary matches that on the national IDs and phone numbers. If the beneficiary does not have a phone number, they will be provided with a card through which they will receive the money.
“We anticipate that by end of this week, the first group of beneficiaries will start receiving the money.”
He conceded that the process is cumbersome, as such, not all beneficiaries will have their names verified, meaning some may have to wait until next week, to have their names cleared.
Zomba City Council public relations officer Mercy Chaluma said they were expecting to conclude the verification exercise by yesterday with the hope that beneficiaries will start receiving the money by January 30.
She said: “We are going ward by ward with Airtel and TNM officials to verify the names, phone numbers and national IDs numbers. We expect to finish the process today [Tuesday]. We have a number of teams that have been split, so the exercise is happening at the same time in all wards.
“On when they will start receiving the money, I can’t tell, maybe you ask the Ministry of Economic Planning. Of course during our meeting with them on Monday, they said they might start providing the money by January 30. That’s why they said we should expedite the verification process.”
For Lilongwe City Council, spokesperson Tamara Chafunya said they have received the final list of beneficiaries and will from today start the verification exercise.
She said: “From tomorrow [today], we will also be engaging beneficiaries that have been identified, but are without numbers.
“The council will engage them so that they acquire numbers that will enable them to get the funds and that they are in the system. In wards, we have instituted grievance redress committees to address any issues that may arise in the course of receiving the funds.”
But Blantyre City Council spokesperson Anthony Kasunda said the council was yet to get the list of beneficiaries from Ministry of Local Government; hence, the verification process was yet to start.
Ministry of Economic Planning and Development Principal Secretary Winford Masanjala said he would only be available for interview today.
President Lazarus Chakwera on Sunday said the Ministry of Finance has released K17.52 billion for urgent use in responding to the new wave of infections and hospital admissions. He said part of the package will go towards this Urban Cash Intervention scheme.
On January 17, the President said K72 million was used by the Protection and Social Support Cluster to sensitise the public to the increased risks and evils of gender-based violence during the pandemic, as well as to support victims and their families with materials and cash transfers.
In April 2020, former president Peter Mutharika announced that the programme would target 172 000 households in urban areas with 80 178 in Lilongwe, 66 744 in Blantyre, 17 258 in Mzuzu and 8 703 in Zomba with K35 000 monthly stipends.
However, Blantyre will now have 71 517 beneficiaries, Lilongwe 85 913, Mzuzu 18 493 and Zomba 9 325 beneficiaries.
It is envisaged to target 35 percent of the urban population and its direct beneficiaries include the elderly, child-headed families, those with physical disabilities, vendors and casual labourers living in densely-populated peri-urban hotspot areas.