Government in December 2014 launched the Decent and Affordable Housing Subsidy Programme (DAHSP) with pomp and spectacle. The programme, more popularly known as the Cement and Malata Subsidy programme, aims at providing decent and affordable housing to poor and vulnerable families in the country. According to the project’s concept note, the programme targets low income households based on the following criteria:

some beneficiaries pose outside their house

l Either living in grass-thatched houses with burnt bricks, soil stabilised blocks (SSBs) or other masonry walls with or without cemented floors but want to improve their houses;

  • Or have bricks and are ready to construct the house on their own but require iron sheets and cement;
  • Are able to pay 10 percent of the total subsidy loan as down payment for the building materials;
  • The poorest of the poor (vulnerable groups i.e. the aged, female or child headed households and persons with disabilities) to be provided with grants.
  • Permanent resident members in the area;
  • Public servants up to Grade I.

As you will agree with me, millions of people in the country meet these criteria. The challenge then is how to choose the beneficiaries. The Concept Note, however, says: “identification of beneficiaries will be done through area development committees, village development committees in liaison with housing development groups and the district housing officials in each local authority.”

You will agree with me that this is just on paper. In such undertakings, political affiliation takes centre stage. But, that is not my concern here. As long as one is a Malawian and meets the criteria, I don’t care who benefits. My concern here is how much government has pumped into the programme against what exactly has trickled down to the lucky beneficiaries.

Under the programme, five lucky households from each of the 193 constituencies are chosen every year. The Concept Note further states: “It is expected that in five years period 66 015 households, about 68 households per constituency in a year (63 households on subsidy and five households on grants) will have access to iron sheets and cement that will lead to decent and affordable houses. The country will have model villages in rural and semi-urban areas resulting from implementation of the programme.”

President Peter Mutharika launched the programme in December 2014 and K7 billion was allocated to it in the 2015/16 National Budget. The 2016/17 and 2017/18 national budgets also allocated a total of K14 billion (K7billion each year) to the programme. In the 2018/19 the National Budget the programme has been allocated a whopping K10 billion.  I have seen a progress report on the programme for the three years it has been implemented excluding 2018/19 National Budget allocation.

For the first three years alone, a total of K21 billion was allocated to the programme. But the report I have seen shows that during this period only K237 million, I repeat, only K237 million was disbursed to the beneficiaries. The North received K7 million, the Centre K122 million, the South K59 million while the Eastern Region got K48 million.

The million dollar question then is what happened to the over K20 billion if we take out K237 million and assume that K763 million was used for sensitization and administration activities?

A further question is from the K10 billion the programme has been allocated in the current budget (for 2018/19), how much should we expect to trickle down to the intended beneficiaries going by the trend set in the first three years? May be less than K100 million. Is this acceptable? Is this what Malawians should be satisfied with?

My suspicion is that this programme, just like the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp), if not worse than it, is a pure rip off on Malawian taxpayers and a drain of resources down the drain. The programme is just a conduit for fattening some fat cats elsewhere.

Even if it were only K7 billion–government needs to explain how only a measly K237 million was meant to be spent on the intended beneficiaries from a budget of K21 billion. No one can convince me that out of the K21 billion allocated for the first three years—over K20 billion was meant for sensitization and subsidy administration and control.

Anyway, mine is just a suspicion. Who is there to track the budget implementation on the programme? Has the National Audit Office ever carried out any audit of the programme? Is the Public Accounts Committee interested in following up on such issues? Is anyone out there as suspicious as I am?.-Source :NPL