Over 3000 businesses await Covid-19 funds

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Bereng Mpaki

OVER 3000 businesses which applied for Covid-19 relief funds from the government two years ago are still awaiting the disbursement of the money.

Private Sector Competitiveness and Economic Diversification Project (PSCEDP) project manager, Chaba Mokuku this week told the media in Maseru that 3168 businesses were still waiting for the funds.

Mr Mokuku said they were still waiting for funds from the Finance ministry.

The funds were meant to have been released two years ago to relieve businesses that were hit hard by the disastrous economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The relief funds facility was announced at the peak of the Covid-19-induced lockdowns in 2020. The government budgeted M50 million for private sector to cushion businesses against the socio-economic impact of the national lockdowns.

Administered by the Lesotho Enterprise Assistance Programme (LEAP), under the PSCEDP in the Trade and Industry ministry, the facility was meant to give matching grants to registered micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that were negatively affected by the pandemic.

Mr Mokuku said 12 473 businesses have so far received their Covid-19 funds amounting to M15 017 500.

Another 3168 businesses that have applied for the funds are still waiting to receive them because the government has not yet released the money to the PSCEDP.

He said M9, 29 million had been disbursed to 1018 formal sector business covering the 10 districts, while M5, 72 million had been disbursed to 11 455 informal businesses.

Mr Mokuku also watered-down perceptions that his office had embezzled the funds.

“We only process the funds when we receive them from the government,” Mr Mokuku said.

“My office has not embezzled any funds. We have accounted for every cent, and our audited financial statements can prove that.”

He also explained that some of the businesses that have not received funds did not meet the eligibility criteria. The criteria included having operated for two years before the Covid-19 pandemic, having a valid tax clearance certificate, and updated financial statements.

Three hundred and nineteen businesses failed to meet the criteria.

He said they were awaiting an outstanding M2, 7 million from the Finance ministry for disbursement to the 3168 businesses that have applied.

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