Govt reviewing policies to deal with resource mismanagement in councils

Government is reviewing the Local Government Act and the National Decentralization Policy in an attempt to deal with wanton abuse of public resources by public officers in councils.

Deputy Director of Planning (Monitoring and Evaluation) at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Sylvester Gawamadzi, said the government embarked on this process after noting that there are some loopholes in the financial management systems at the council level.

Gawamadzi- Councils need to develop proper plans pic by Tione Andsen (Mana)

Gawamadzi was responding to a questionnaire from Nyasa Times on what the government is doing to address the perennial problem of theft of public resources in local and district councils across the country.

Our questionnaire followed findings of a recent Public Expenditure Tracking (PET) study the Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN) conducted in Salima and Nsanje.

MEJN with funding from the IM Swedish Development Partner is implementing a five-year social accountability project titled “Enhancing Social Accountability for Better Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) III Development Results and Outcomes”.

The project aims at enhancing compliance and responsiveness by duty bearers in the implementation of the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) III for development results and outcomes which will translate into improved better services for Malawi and societal change at large.

As part of the project’s activities, MEJN commissioned a Public Expenditure Tracking (PET) exercise focusing on project funded by Constituency Development Fund (CDF), District Development Fund (DDF) and other development funds.

The main purpose of this assessment was to determine the level of compliance and implementation of the development projects funded by CDF, DDF and other development funds in Salima and Nsanje districts.

Additionally, MEJN wanted to appreciate the capacity and mandate of councillors to effectively play their oversight functions, availability of up to date Socio-Economic Profile and District Development Plans and why councils have been accumulating unsustainable debts over the years.

The network further wanted to understand why there are so many stalled projects in the councils.

Among others, the study discovered a number anomalies pointing to suspicion that public resources might have been abused, leading to either delivery of poor quality work or stalling of development projects altogether.

In other instances, poor planning and poor project management were cited as factors contributing to the delivery of substandard work.

And when asked about the steps the government is taking to seal these gaps, Gawamadzi said they believe that a solution lies in the amendment of the legal frameworks.

“Right now, we are reviewing the Local Government Act, which is going to help in sorting some of the issues, including how the councilors can effectively deliver their services. But also we are reviewing the National Decentralization Policy, which will facilitate the acceleration of fiscal devolution, especially devolution of micro projects,” he said.

However, Gawamadzi could not commit himself to reveal when the new policies will be in place.

He said there are a number of stakeholders involved in the review process.

Meanwhile, stakeholders have validated the findings of the PET exercise as a true reflection of the situation on the ground.

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