Justice ministry denies stealing K60m for retirees


The Ministry of Justice has denied “stealing” K60 million from retirees as claimed by the Voluntary Separatees Association of Zambia (VSAZ).

The ministry’s permanent secretary for administration Joseph Akafumba said he found the accusation by VSAZ shocking because Government did not owe money to any person who went on voluntary retirement between 1997 and 1999

“I find the accusations very shocking because the funds were paid to their lawyers,” said Mr  Akafumba

Mr. Akafumba said this yesterday after a meeting with VSAZ to verify payment schedules for retirees and clear the ministry from all forms of accusations.

A fortnight ago, VSAZ general Secretary Simemeza Syachoke told the Daily Nation that K60 million meant for retirees who went on voluntary retirement between 1997 and 1999 was allegedly stolen at the Ministry of Justice in an alleged highly organised clandestine operation.

Mr. Akafumba then asked for time to enable the ministry to verify its documents with regard to the payment schedules of the retirees’ dues through their lawyers, an exercise which was concluded last week.

But when the ministry called for a meeting to compare VSAZ’s records of claim and the ministry’s verified payment schedules yesterday, Mr. Syachoke refused to attend the meeting saying his association expected the ministry to officially communicate its findings by writing to the association. Mr. Syachoke further claimed that the meeting had stretched beyond the ultimatum given to the ministry and that VSAZ had already resolved to drag Government to court over the matter.

But Mr. Akafumba told the Daily Nation that VSAZ was not sincere in its claims, adding that he expected its secretariat to engage the ministry before rushing to the media.

He explained that the ministry of Justice had fully paid all the dues to the retirees saying evidence that the funds were transferred to their lawyers was there for all to see, adding the VSAZ’s antagonistic approach to its misunderstanding of the contents of the documents was unfortunate.  He explained that payment of retirees’ benefits was initially under the Ministry of Finance until 2009 when the compensation and awards process was transferred to his ministry and that all the monies were dully paid accordingly.

“From 2009 when we started handling that issue, we paid the retirees accordingly each time we received funding from the ministry of finance. The only year when we delayed to release the money was in March 2011 and it was not our fault but theirs,

“The ministry of finance released the funding on 3rd March 2011 but because their lawyers were still fighting over the same money, we only released the funds to five lawyers who emerged after the split on 10th June, 2011.

“The legal firms given the moneys are Lukona Chambers, Milner Katolo and Associates, Henry Chanda and Company, Dindi and Company, and Mumba Malila and this was done through electronic fund transfer. So, how did the ministry steal their money?” Mr. Akafumba asked.

He advised Mr. Syachoke to desist from issuing unverified and wild statements  which had a damaging effect on those entrusted with public responsibility.

“The problem with my brother Syachoke is he is too quick to act and this is not good. All the employees at the Ministry of Justice including me were not here in 2009 but at the end of the day, we all looked like thieves.

Even if this claim was genuine, that is not the way you do things where you send the letter to the media even before the addressee receives it,” he said According to VSAZ’s claim, the money purported to have been transferred between 23rd April 2009 and 5th November 2011 did not reach the lawyers but the records at the ministry which were availed to the Daily Nation yesterday indicated that the money was transferred electronically to the lawyers’ accounts, with electronic fund transfer numbers indicated.

The transfers are also backed by the ministry’s bank statements.