Govt touts the exiting LGAP Project as game changer in councils’ operations

Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Halima Daud, has described the Local Government Accountability and Performance (LGAP) project as a game changer, saying it has helped enhance and promote delivery of high quality services in the local councils in Malawi.

Daud made the sentiments on Thursday at the virtual project closure event, which was hosted by Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS).

Deputy Local Government Minister Halima Daudi

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) have been supporting the five-year project to improve local government performance and transparency, increase citizen engagement, and strengthen the enabling environment for decentralization in Malawi.

Daud said LGAP was a reform-premised project that has transformed service delivery in councils across the country.

She added that the project has been part of the main financing mechanism for checking the performance of all local government authorities in Malawi.

“Now that the project will officially close on 23rd August, 2021, I am both happy because it has been an important project that has contributed greatly in its period of existence, but I am also sad because it leaves a gap that is very hard to fill, especially in the relevant area of performance management in the councils.

“The wish to see high performing councils that deliver high quality services is a subject matter, which is at the centre of the Tonse Administration led by His Excellency the President Dr Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera. I am, therefore, of the opinion that the legacy that LGAP has created should continue for the good of Malawians,” said Daud.

The Deputy Minister added that LGAP Project has contributed to major milestones in Malawi’s drive to deepen decentralisation and promote local economic development in Malawi and further complemented national efforts aimed at building the capacities of the Local Government Authorities in Malawi to be responsive to the needs of local masses and the general public at large.

FCDO Malawi Deputy Development Director, Martin Dawson, said strong councils are crucial in the provision of effective, efficient and sustainable socioeconomic services to improve the livelihood of Malawians and for tackling high levels of poverty in the country.

Dawson said United Kingdom (UK) is proud to have partnered with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development alongside the US to support LGAP.

“The UK contributed £12 million to scale up technical support from 8 to 28 rural district councils nationwide. This additional support also helped deepen the programme’s focus on delivery of education service to rural communities.

“LGAP has provided capacity building to finance staff in the use of the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS), which has led to all councils, using the system in processing transactions and generating finance data for decision-making. Councils can now celebrate having cleared backlogs of annual financial reporting,” he said.

He added that LGAP was also able to adapt its programming to support Councils to develop district-level Covid-19 preparedness and response plans. This enabled a more effective implementation of responses in line with the national response plan.

Earlier, the National Local Government Finance Committee Executive Director, Alifeyo Banda, Malawi Local Government Association (MALGA) executive director Hadrod Zeru Mkandawire, LGAP Decentralization Manager Winston Kenyatta Khamula and the immediate former chairperson for Dowa District Council, Martin Luka Phiri, joined a panel discussion where they tackled a number of governance lapses characterizing the operations of the council.

Among others, Mkandawire blamed the poor services local councils offer on poor funding.

“The councils are not well resourced. Because if the councils were well funded, the councilors would have been able to go back to the citizens with feedback,” he said.

On the other hand, Khamula observed that engagement between elected officers and citizens is almost non-existent in most councils.

He recommended that citizens must start attending council meetings to appreciate the programmes duty-bearers are initiating for them.

“I am saying this because what we have seen, so far, is that councilors attend council meetings without consulting their constituents. Councils should be engaging the people to get their feedback. Otherwise, how do you expect the vendors, for instance, to pay the fees religiously when they don’t see what you are doing with the money?” he asked.

The immediate former chairperson for Dowa District Council, Councillor Martin Luka Phiri, admitted that elected officers have not been engaging their constituents.

“Engagement is quite difficult for us. We use VDCs to give feedback to the people. We cannot manage to go to each and every VDC to give feedback,” said Phiri.

And speaking before the Deputy Minister, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Dr. Charles Kalemba, cited e-ticketing as one of the innovations the project initiated in the councils.

Makanga said this has helped tackle theft of market fees by revenue collectors.

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