GESD challenges civil society to deepen democratic governance in local councils

Governance to Enable Service Delivery (GESD) Project has highlighted inadequate funding to development projects, inadequate qualified and capable personnel, weak financial accountability and controls, ineffective system of oversight and intergovernmental accountability and fragmented planning processes as major constraints to the democratization process in local councils.

GESD Project Team Leader Gray Kalindekafe has since challenged civil society organizations (CSOs) to take an active role in deepening democratic local governance and creating a conducive national context characterized by political pluralism, decentralization policy, and capacity and resources of local governments.

Kalindekafe (left) addressing journalists recently

Kalindekafe was speaking at Liwonde in Machinga on Wednesday when he opened a two-and-a-half-day capacity building for CSOs on Local Authority Performance Assessment (LAPA), citizen-led project monitoring, advocacy and citizen engagement for effective local government accountability in Malawi.

He observed that there is a disconnect between the government and citizens, with people going through the motions of meetings, participation, and voting, yet without feeling part of it.

“In that situation, accountability remains an empty shell, unless that connection can be built and strengthened. Therefore, (re)building the connections between state and citizens is at the core of our interventions,” he said.

Kalindekafe (in black suit) poses for a photo with participants to the capacity building workshop at Gmalina Court in Liwonde–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu

Kalindekafe – who is also the Acting Executive Director for the National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) Public Trust – stressed that a proactive civil society that serves as the vanguard of decentralization, democratization, and accountability at national and local levels is key in driving transformative change at the grassroots level.

He also called for enhanced collaboration between CSOs and the government for Malawi to achieve a more dynamic, efficient, and effective development and implementation of drug policies and action plans.

“We need to move beyond the simple government-civil society dichotomy in which CSOs are seen as taking government to account on behalf of citizens and start developing accountability relations from a systems perspective. Our interventions must address issues from a multi-level perspective, i.e., local, and national level simultaneously and inter-dependently, using informal networks at different levels – from the local councillor to the President,” he said.

One of the participants, Willard Mwambo, said the capacity building workshop was timely, saying it will enable them gain skills and knowledge for engaging government officials on how to improve their service delivery to citizens.

GESD is a five-year World Bank-funded project initiated to address the highlighted above constraints through strengthening of local authorities’ institutional performance, responsiveness to citizens, and management of resources for service delivery.

The project focuses on the institutional strengthening of councils to improve management of resources for responsive service delivery.

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