Fear, ignorance aiding corruption in Malawi public projects

Fear and ignorance among community leaders on public project processes are breeding corrupt tendencies among some local council officials and politicians involved in implementation of Local Development Fund (LDF) and Constituency Development Fund (CDF) projects.

Zulu: When people are enlightened corruption is defeated
Zulu: When people are enlightened corruption is defeated
Kabuluzi: We fear they will abuse the funds
Kabuluzi: We fear they will abuse the funds

The observation was made on Wednesday at Chiwe in the area of Senior Group Village Headwoman Sinombe in T/A Kalolo in Lilongwe where NGO-Gender Coordination Network (NGO-GCN) oriented community leaders drawn from Lilongwe Mapuyu North Constituency on public expenditure tracking.

At the meeting, the leaders alleged that officials from the Lilongwe District Council tend to sideline existing structures such as Village Development Committees (VDCs) and other local project committees when implementing projects in their areas.

Vice Chairperson for Chisenga VDC, Patience Kabuluzi cited an on-going impasse between authorities at Mgwerambavi school and her committee saying construction works for a classroom block under LDF is in progress at the school yet without the involvement of the VDC as per project guidelines.

“We don’t know how much money was given for the project and we don’t know how much has been spent for materials and where the materials are being kept. Our fear is that they will abuse the project funds or the materials,” she said.

Nyanja Ward Councilor Ferenando Katenje Zulu (Malawi Congress Party—MCP) also alleged that construction works for classroom blocks at Dzama and Chiwete schools in his ward were dragging following unexplained missing of bags of cement.

According to Zulu, 70 bags went missing at Damba School while 18 bags vanished at Chiwete School.

“This orientation meeting will help enlighten the people on how public projects are run and when people are enlightened corruption will be defeated,” he said.

Senior Group Village Headwoman Sinombe told Malawi News Agency (Mana) that villagers in the area fail to report on the abuses because of fear.

“These people [council officials] come in their cars and as poor villagers we cannot question their activities even when we know that what they are doing is wrong. We fear for our lives because we are not sure what they are capable of doing,” said Sinombe.

While acknowledging existence of corrupt tendencies that mar LDF and CDF projects in the district, Lilongwe District Community Development Officer Annie Kamwendo pushed the blame to the communities for not speaking out.

“These are your projects and you are duty bound to get involved at every stage of the implementation process. As leaders of various committees you must work collectively to ensure smooth implementation of public projects in your areas,” advised Kamwendo.

On his part, NGO-GCN Coordinator Victor Maulidi said the meeting was aimed at imparting public expenditure tracking skills to the community leaders as one way of ensuring transparency and accountability among duty bearers and adherence to local government processes.

Said Maulidi: “The idea is that projects should benefit women and girls and that there should be improved working relationship among elected leaders.”

The meeting was part of a Local Governance Socio-economic Development Project aimed at empowering communities to track and monitor service delivery and budget implementation which NGO-GCN with funding from National Democratic Institute (NDI) is implementing in the districts of Lilongwe, Balaka and Machinga.

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