Chitipa District Commissioner, Grace Zione Chirwa Saturday had no option but to go down to her knees to apologize on behalf her secretariat team for sidelining councillors, members of Parliament (MPs) and chiefs in implementing crucial donor and government funded development projects.
During an adhoc council meeting, held at World Relief Hall, at the Boma, highly charged councilors ganged up with MPs and chiefs and descended on council secretariat officials , blaming them for undermining their authority and their role in executing development projects in the district.
The bone of contention that has created a stand off between the two sides is failure by project implementing District Environment Sub-Committee(DESC) to brief councilors, legislators and traditional leaders about projects under Productive Public Works Programme (PPWP) to be implemented in the district, financed by Local Development Fund (LDF) .
“Let me apologize on behalf of the secretariat for the mistake. This will never happen again,” said Chirwa.
Environmentally biased projects under the safety net productive public works programme will be implemented in river catchment areas and watersheds where there is rampant deforestation and other forms of damage inflicted on natural resources across the district.
However, what angered members of the council is that when resources for the programme were channelled to the district, members from DESC team hastily divided themselves into all river catchment areas of five traditional authorities , drew physical maps and urged communities around catchment areas, through village headmen, to identify projects to be implemented, without the knowledge and involvement of traditional and other key leaders.
“We were not only surprised but shocked to learn that we were not going to be involved in implementation of the programme in our areas,” wondered Chief Mwenewenya, who only knew about the programme through a tip by his good intentioned subjects.
Development conscious leaders then took turns in grilling officials for what they termed lack of respect to by-pass them as champions of development in their own district, when planning and implementing development projects.
An attempt by DESC members, led by committee chairperson, Loti Makina, explained that there was little or no consultation with councillors, MPs and chiefs because it was a crash programme.
“There is nothing you can tell us now. You have our contacts, why didn’t you give us a call to explain to us about the crash programme,” charged Newton Sibale, councillor for Zambwe Ward.
Council Chairperson, Isaac Mwape emphasized that no matter how urgent a development programme can be, we have unparalleled right to know the project right from its inception.
“It is a grave mistake for you to implement any development related activity behind our backs,” burst Mwepa.
Council members also took a swipe at the secretariat over the tendency of re-prioritizing projects already approved by full council meeting without seeking authority, direction and the nod from the members to effect some changes.
Councillors’ wrath has been drawn just weeks after Malawi Human Rights Resource Centre (MHRRC) Programme Manager, Emma Kaliya cast doubts if people of Chitipa District will realize sound and sustainable socioeconomic development unless councilors jacked up and grew sharp teeth to bite.
Meanwhile, 17 catchment areas have been ear-marked for implementation of environment affiliated projects that will run for three years.
At each catchment area, 533 people will be recruited, with gender consideration and each will work for 12 days at a wage of K600 per day.
Projects to be implemented under the programme are fish pond construction, small scale irrigation, land resource conservation, afforestation among others.
Chitipa District Council is currently K184 million richer after LDF pumped in a hooping K108 million to finance projects under productive public works programme, followed by government subvention of K76 million as District Development Fund (DDF), with some commentators describing 2016 as a year that will bring good tidings to resource constraint border district.-ManaFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :