Monday, September 21, 2020

Decision to divert alcohol levy funds taken at highest levels

The decision by Government to use money from the Alcohol Levy to buy drugs for the Central Medical Stores was taken at the highest echelons of Government.

A Public Relations Officer of the Ministry of Health, Temba Sibanda, says that President Ian Khama and Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Kenneth Matambo, made a decision to give Central Medical Stores P30m to purchase drugs.

The Auditor General had raised concerns that using the Alcohol Levy money towards buying drugs amounted to diversion of funds as that did not fall within what the Levy was created for.

Sibanda said this when answering a questionnaire from The Telegraph on how money raised from the levy was being spent. He said that the decision was made after there were outbreaks of disease and, therefore, an urgent need for medications arose.

“P30 million was allocated to CMS following an agreement between His Excellency the President, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and the Accounting Officer of the alcohol Levy Fund. There was an urgent need for medication due to outbreaks.”

The auditor general, in his recent report , made an observation that P30m was used for Central Medical Stores’ purchase of drugs and that his perusal of the financial books had noticed that this money was not used for its intended purposes and that the officer responsible for the fund was not consulted. He further noted that beneficiaries of the funds are not being asked to account for them.

On the current amount the levy has raised, Sibanda said that as at December 2011 the fund had raised P772, 2 million.

On what they are planning to do with the money now, he said that there are plans to conduct campaigns against alcohol abuse amongst the general public, at primary, secondary and tertiary schools as well as to support measures for rehabilitation of victims of alcohol abuse.

He said that the fund has helped in the formation of alcohol policy, public education and awareness on alcohol and in the introduction of traditional beer regulations.

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 20 - 26, 2020.