Chiefs’ Zesco, Medical Bills No Longer Paid For By GRZ

Chiefs’ Zesco, Medical Bills No Longer Paid For By GRZ

MINISTRY of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs permanent secretary Michael Pwete says after increasing the chiefs’ monthly subsidies, government will no longer pay their Zesco or medical bills.

And Pwete says the government did not provide for the over 180 per cent increment of chief’s subsidies in the 2016 budget as claimed by chiefs and traditional affairs minister Dr Joseph Katema.

President Edgar Lungu in April directed Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs permanent secretary Michael Pwete to implement chiefs’ and retainers wage adjustments with immediate effect. The new subsidies were paid to chiefs and retainers last Thursday backdated to April, 2016.

The new figures entail that a paramount chief will now be getting a monthly subsidy of 13,000 from K4,500 while senior chiefs are now entitled to K11,500 from K4,200 leaving ordinary chiefs at K10,000 from K4,000. A further K2,000 per month per chief would be provided for incidentals while retainers’ wages were increased from K1,200 to K2,500.

There are 288 chiefs and 627 retainers country-wide. When the K2,000 is added, it means paramount chiefs will be entitled to K15,000, senior chiefs will get K13,500 while ordinary ones would get K12,500.

Dr Katema, who had earlier expressed  ignorance over the increment, was however, quoted in the government-controlled Times of Zambia and on Hot FM radio programme defending the move on grounds that the money was catered for in the 2016 budget, which was approved by Parliament in December, when in fact not.

But a scrutiny of the 2016 budget as passed in December 2015 under chiefs’ subsidies and retainers’ wages indicates a total budget of K23, 558,400 entailing that the increment, was effected through another budget, approved by the House as a supplementary one. With the new increments, the budget swells to K43,852,000.

Another programme under the chiefs affairs unit in the 2016 budget was the construction of their palaces, and the government set aside K18,902,492, which was also approved.

On top of these undertakings, the government pays for medical, Zesco and subsistence allowances at the rate of division officer in government of K800 per day when chiefs are on duty.

However, Pwete acknowledged that there was no budget allocation for the increment in the 2016 budget but that government still had to find money for the undertaking because it had been on the cards for a long time.

When asked if the government would continue to pay chiefs medical bills and others, now that it had increased their subsidies, Pwete said the incidental figure added to their subsidies would deal with such expenses.

“Yes, we have put an extra K2,000, which will serve as incidentals, meaning that chiefs are now expected to take care of their Zesco and medical bills from that allocation!”