UK freezes aid to Zambia over corruption

The UK government is worried money meant for poor Zambians has been stolen by corrupt officials

The UK government is worried money meant for poor Zambians has been stolen by corrupt officials

The UK government has frozen direct financial aid to the Zambian government after concerns about widespread corruption.

A Zambian government spokesman admitted to the BBC that $4.3m (£3.3m) meant for poor families had gone missing.

The government is committed to taking action but needs to wait for the final results of its four-month audit, the spokesman added.

Ireland, Finland and Sweden have also suspended aid.

The freeze comes at a time when President Edgar Lungu’s government is under increasing financial pressure.

The British High Commissioner to Zambia, Fergus Cochrane-Dyet, confirmed the aid freeze in a tweet, saying that the UK government has a “zero-tolerance approach to fraud & corruption”.

The UK government will decide on its next move once this has been completed, he added.

President Lungu’s spokesperson Amos Chanda told BBC Focus on Africa that a government investigation had uncovered the corruption.

The money had gone missing from the Social Cash Transfer programme, which allocates money that is paid directly to the poorest in Zambia, he said.

“The president wants answers within a week,” Mr Chanda added.

A statement from the Swedish government’s aid agency, SIDA, said that there had been “strong suspicions of irregularities”.

More than 50 per cent of Zambia’s 17 million people live below the poverty line, the World Bank says.

The corruption has also affected Zambia’s health and education ministries, the UK-based journal, Africa Confidential, reports.

It says that a report by Zambia’s auditor general highlighted that people in the ministry of education established shell companies to divert funds.

Money from the Social Cash Transfer programme was used to buy expensive vehicles, Africa Confidential adds.

The UK government has not confirmed the amount of aid that has been affected, but has said that it has suspended aid “to the education, social cash transfers, health and nutrition sectors”.

The aid suspension comes as Zambia’s debt levels are coming under increasing scrutiny.

The International Monetary Fund has said that it has suspended lending to the country as it is worried that its debt is unsustainable. -BBC


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