Covid grant: ‘Govt has money’

Government says it has not run out of money or backtracked from its decision to help thousands of Namibians in the informal sector who lost income due to Covid-19.

02 July 2020 | Economics

The good news is that over 30 000 names have passed the first stage of verification and … if found to be qualified, they will be paid early next week. – Tonateni Shidhudhu, Chief PRO: Finance

Jo-Maré Duddy – Nearly three months after government launched the Emergency Income Grant (EIG) to help needy Namibians who lost their jobs or income due to the impact of Covid-19, about 120 000 applicants are still waiting for their once-off payment of N$750.

When he launched the EIG early in April, finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi said it would take 72 hours or three days to process applications.

“We have underestimated the process as it turned out to be longer,” the chief public relations officer of the ministry of finance, Tonateni Shidhudhu, said yesterday.

He denied that government hasn’t got the cash to pay the thousands of increasingly impatient people still waiting for relief.

“The ministry has not run out of money or backtracked from its decision. We are still committed to honour the promise of assisting those in the informal sector who lost income due to Covid-19,” Shidhudhu said.

Budget

At the EIG launch, Shiimi said N$562 million was available to the estimated 739 000 Namibians of 18 to 59 years who needed the help.

According to the 2020/21 budget Shiimi tabled in parliament in May, N$772 million was set aside for the Covid-19 EIG package.

A total of 747 281 Namibians have so far benefited from the grant, Shidhudhu confirmed yesterday – already 8 281 more than the estimated beneficiaries at the launch. This has cost government just short of the N$562 million mentioned at the launch.

Even if the 120 000 applications who still need be verified, all qualify and get paid, there will be enough money in the budget. This will bring the total number of beneficiaries to 867 281. A grant of N$750 to each and every one will cost nearly N$651 million – about N$121 million that the amount budgeted for.

Verification

Shidhudhu yesterday once again asked those who haven’t received their grant yet to be patient.

The verification process is necessary to curb fraudulent applications, he said.

According to him, there are “thousands of records at hand of which many of them are handwritten and need time to be typed into the system to avoid duplication of payment”.

“For the past weeks, our teams have been working tirelessly to capture the data received from all the constituency offices in the country and verify details of the applicants of which some of them were again entered incorrectly,” Shidhudhu said.

He elaborated: “Some of the ID numbers were again not correct and our staff members have to call applicants on the mobile number provided to ascertain the correct digits of the applicants. It is unfortunate that some of the applicants were not cooperative when they receive calls from our staff members. However, some were kind and were able to rectify the details provided in the form.”

He said some of the names in the verification forms have already been paid and according to the ministry’s record only 120 000 applicants need to be verified before payment.

“The good news is that over 30 000 names have passed the first stage of verification and are now being verified for the last time and if found to be qualified, they will be paid early next week,” Shidhudhu said.

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