The Malawi Local Government Association Management Network (MALGA MAGNET) has said its members “have never had intentions to deliberately preside over a system of theft, abuse of public resources, corruption and mediocrity in development delivery”.
Chairperson for MALGA MAGNET, Reinghard Chavula, made the remarks at the network’s 2021/2022 annual conference, which was held on Monday in Salima.
MALGA MAGNET is a technical sub-structure of MALGA comprising district commissioners (DCs) and town, municipal and city council chief executive officers, as controlling officers of local authorities.
Chavula’s remarks come amid public perception that councils are wasteful, corrupt and a waste of public resources to keep.
But Chavula, who is the DC for Chiradzulu, acknowledged that local governments are not immune to “little incidences” of corruption, theft and abuse of public resources as is the case with other public institutions.
She, however, said most of the challenges emanating from the local councils “are not particularly the making of the controlling officers, but rather a long established system that needs to be honestly and hurriedly confronted and dealt with.
“As controlling officers, we walk, live, eat, sleep and dream of successful local government authorities, which are significantly contributing to the national development agenda. However, there is a system that has left controlling officers without meaningful disciplining authority over errant officers, which makes most of them behave and act as they wish. They know that they might just be transferred to another council or an invisible hand from the central government will protect them.
“We have a system that makes a controlling officer account for sins of his or her predecessor. We have a system that makes a controlling officer of the local government as the only public controlling officer without an official vehicle. We have a system that makes local governments to be treated differently from other public institutions when it comes to financing,” said Chavula
The MALGA MAGNET chairperson then called for what she described as “a strengthened policy dialogue and engagement” between local governments, central government and the network in order to sort out these issues.
The 2021/2022 MALGA MAGNET conference was held under the theme: “Moving Forward with Decentralization by Fostering Networking and Information Sharing.
It received financial support from Prime Insurance Company and the Non Governmental Organisations (NGO) Board of Malawi, a state owned registrar and regulator of all NGOs and civil society organisations.
The conference, according to Chavula, was aimed at, among other things, restructuring MALGA MAGNET by reviewing objectives, terms of reference and composition of the network in order to strengthen it since “it is the apex technical structure of MALGA”.
Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Local Government, James Chiusiwa, concurred with Chavula, adding that controlling officers need to champion strengthening of public finance management systems in local governments in order to clear the “misinformed public perception” about councils.
“Some recent audit reports give an indication that local governments are much better than many other public institutions. Prove wrong those who are still in doubt that local governments have very capable people and in most cases more capable than elsewhere. Tighten all the loose ends and seal all leakages on financial management at the local level,” said Chiusiwa.
He further urged the controlling officers to exercise transformational leadership and change in management practices, saying “they need to account for their own management and the direction taken by the government”.
Vice President for MALGA, Councillor Brian Nyasulu, called for concerted efforts in pushing for bailout package for the councils, official vehicles for the controlling officers and duty free vehicles for ward councilors.
“World over, a national association of local governments is a hub for policy and legal dialogue and reform and hence contributing to an improved and conducive decentralized environment for local governments. It is our wide expectation that going forward, the existing rapport between the Ministry of Local Government and MALGA will be strengthened for improved policy dialogue and decision making on issues of local governance and decentralization,” said Nyasulu, who is also the Mayor of the City of Mzuzu.
According to MALGA Executive Director, Hadrod Zeru Mkandawire, MALGA MAGNET was established in 2017 as one of the technical sub structures for all directorates and sectors of local governments assigned with a specific task to assist MALGA executive committee and secretariat with lobbying and advocacy agenda direction, while strengthening human capacity of local governments through peer learning and networking.
Mkandawire said, since its operationalization, MALGA MAGNET “has been very instrumental in providing technical input into MALGA advocacy and representation work geared at improving the decentralization environment at the national level.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :