Corruption rocks youth fund

Provincial youths have accused senior government officials at the Ministry of Youth headquarters of fraud over the allocation of the $10 million national youth fund.

The youths say the officials are replacing provincial applicants with their kith and kin from Harare when approving the final list of applicants to receive loans. They also accuse them of taking advantage of their position to re-assess all the applicants from the 10 provinces before making the final selection.

“Our provincial youth officers have no power. The Harare office re-assesses applications that have already been approved by provincial youth officers. This is being manipulated to our disadvantage,” said Onai Ndemera from the National Youth Services. “The senior officers are replacing our applications with those from youths based in Harare contrary to the youth policy.”

Ndemera pleaded with Youth Minister Francis Nhema to give provincial youth officers authority to have the final say over applications from their respective areas. This would bring transparency into the allocation process and reduce the waiting period, he said.

His views were reiterated by many participants during the Youth Consultative Forum and Expo held on Thursday at Mutare Hall. Youths urged the parent ministry to do away with the bureaucracy over the processing of fund applications. Nhema ensured them he would get to the bottom of the matter.

Nhema told The Zimbabwean his ministry had been monitoring the performance of the loan beneficiaries. “We are not happy with their performance because only 30 percent have managed to honour the terms of repaying their loans. We need to do a lot of work to ensure that the fund runs properly,” he said.

Youths defaulting on the fund, which is managed by Old Mutual and distributed by the Central African Building Society (CABS), could face lawsuits.

“We have already sent out 1,300 letters to remind the youths to repay their loans as expected. In the event that they totally default, usual business procedures will apply,” said Nhema.

Buying cars

Reports indicate that a substantial number of the youths (18-35 years), who received loans ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, converted the money to other purposes such as buying cars instead of developing the projects for which they were given the funds. Others abandoned the projects mid-way due to incapacity to run them.

“While there is need to capacitate the youths, it seems many of them did not appreciate that a lot was required for them to succeed in business. Their projects were not well thought out and there are indications that some of them lacked requisite skills,” added the minister.

As a result, future beneficiaries will be required to produce vocational certificates and evidence of the capacity to embark on proposed ventures before being allocated money. He accused the youths of failing to understand that the money they were receiving was from a revolving fund.

Nhema admitted that there had been a poor uptake of the funds, and said the government would only assist willing beneficiaries. But despite the problems bedevilling the fund, government intends to double the money to $20 million.

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