NAIROBI, Kenya June 19 – The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development has denied reports of misappropriation of funds set aside for the Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC’s) across the country.
Secretary for Children Affairs at the Ministry Prof Jacqueline Oduol maintains that the funds are properly utilised and assured parents and guardians of children registered for support to be patient.
“We admit there are orphans and vulnerable children in various parts of the country who were registered and have not been receiving the money, but this does not mean that the money is being misappropriated,” Prof Oduol said, in response to Capital FM’s detailed exposes of interviews carried out with affected families.
The programme was launched sometimes in 2004 to benefit orphans and vulnerable children all over the country, but parents and guardians interviewed by Capital FM News had complained that it was taking too long for them to receive the money.
“We are trying our best, let Kenyans understand that the budget allocation for the programme of the OVC’s is not enough and that is why the programme has not been able to benefit everyone who registered for it,” the Children Affairs Secretary said, and assured that “we are moving there. It is just a matter of time. We would like to have everyone covered in this programme.”
While some orphans and guardians interviewed in Nakuru, Kisumu, Murang’a and Machakos said they have been receiving the money, a majority of others accused the ministry of keeping them waiting for more than five years.
Each orphan or vulnerable child covered under the programme known as Cash Transfer for Orphans and Vulnerable Children are entitled to Sh2, 000 per month.
When the programme started eight years ago, beneficiaries were only receiving Sh500 but the figure has since been revised upwards.
“Initially we started the programme in worst affected areas such as Nyanza and Kilifi and baseline poverty indices were used, today we are covered in all the 47 counties but I must admit not every deserving case is taken care of, and this is because of insufficient funds,” she said. “We try as much as possible but we do not have enough money.”
During this year’s financial budget, the government has allocated Sh4.4 billion for the OVC children.
Some families had complained of persistent delays in receiving the funds, because it takes up to three to four months in some areas to receive the money.
“The delays are there sometimes, but whenever this happens we try as much as possible to ensure it is paid in lump sum. There is no money that disappears just like that,” she explained.
She said the ministry is in the process of introducing security measures to curb any form of misappropriation or theft of any nature, to ensure deserving cases benefit from the project.
“We are very strict on this programme, in fact we are working on pilot project with Equity Bank whereby we are introducing biometrics to ensure the money reaches the right people,” she said.
She however, expressed fears that as much as the ministry strife to ensure the money reaches parents and guardians of the affected children, it is difficult to keep track of the expenditure.
“The biggest worry is that, we are never sure that the beneficiaries who are the children are benefiting fully from the money released by the government and donors, because some of them may just end up utilising the money in other uses,” she said.
As part of measures to ensure the money gets to the intended beneficiaries and utilized accordingly, Prof Oduol said the ministry will in the near future introduce mechanisms to track the money and how it is utilized.
The cash transfer programme is also supported by UNICEF, DFID and the World Bank.
UNICEF and global partners define an orphan as a child who has lost one or both parents. By this definition there were over 132 million orphans in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean in 2005.
This large figure represents not only children who have lost both parents, but also those who have lost a father but have a surviving mother or have lost their mother but have a surviving father, UNICEF says on its official website.
Of the more than 132 million children classified as orphans, UNICEF estimates that only 13 million have lost both parents. “Evidence clearly shows that the vast majority of orphans are living with a surviving parent grandparent, or other family member. 95 percent of all orphans are over the age of five,” UNICEF says.
This definition sharply contrasts with concepts of orphan in many industrialized countries, where a child must have lost both parents to qualify as an orphan. UNICEF and numerous international organizations says they adopted the broader definition of orphan in the mid-1990s as the AIDS pandemic began leading to the death of millions of parents worldwide, leaving an ever increasing number of children growing up without one or more parents. So the terminology of a ‘single orphan’ – the loss of one parent – and a ‘double orphan’ – the loss of both parents – was born to convey this growing crisis.