‘Citizens budget’ in Malawi as Centre for Social Concern public finance management project rolls on

The Ministry of Finance says it has started translating national budget documents into local languages in order to provide summarized and simplified contents of the budgets to rural citizens to enable them take part in tracking implementation of the fiscal plans.

CFSC director, James Ngahy: We will be involving more other relevant stakeholders

Assistant Budget Director, Lawrence Ngwalangwa, said government has termed the translated, surmarized and simplified booklets as the “citizens budget”.

Ngwalangwa disclosed this at Mponela in Dowa District during an interface meeting with media practitioners.

The meeting had been organized by faith based Centre for Social Concern (CFSC) through its project dubbed “Strengthening the Capacity of Citizens to Demand Transparency and Accountability in Public Finance Management for Reduced Poverty and Inequality.

During the interface meeting, Ngwalangwa and other highly placed officials from the Ministry of Finance gave presentations and responses that have enlightened journalists to report effectively about public finance management in a manner that excites citizens to have keen interest in issues of budgets and public finance management in general.

Ngwalangwa commended the CFSC project, saying it augers well with what government is already doing through the “citizens budget”.

“Our intention is to ensure that what is contained in budget documents reaches out to the masses. Budget documentation is very technical which makes it hard for rural people to grasp the contents in the budgets.

“We have so far translated the budget into three local languages: Chichewa, Yao and Tumbuka. We will soon be translating into Sena, Tonga and other languages.

“Citizens are the owners of the budget hence they need information so that they are able to track implementation and get involved in the entire budget implementation process,” said Ngwalangwa.

He also commended the involvement of the media, saying CFSC has taken the right direction as journalists will help put across the message, especially the sensitization on implementation of the budgets.

In his remarks, CFSC Director, James Ngahy, concurred with Ngwalangwa, adding that the media will indeed act as a vehicle through which calls for prudent public finance management will be put across.

“This interface meeting between the media and Ministry of Finance officials is very important for it is a platform for sharing knowledge and experiences in the spirit of making our project a success. We will be involving more other relevant stakeholders,” said Ngahy, whose organisation is a social and research arm of the Roman Catholic church in Malawi.

With funding from GIZ–a German development agency, CFSC is implementing the project in order to improve public financial management for reduced inequality and poverty through improved transparency and accountability at all levels.

According to Ngahy, CFSC strongly believes that active citizen participation in public finance management will enhance transparency and accountability that will lead to reduced poverty and inequality.

The project comes against the background of prevailing corruption and mismanagement of public resources in Malawi–which CFSC says is “becoming increasingly widespread and pose a serious challenge to development”.

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