The Malawi Local Government Association (Malga) has condemned a report of the Parliamentary Ad hoc Committee on implementation of Constituency Development Fund (CDF) and Water Development Fund by local councils, urging Ministry of Local Government and National Local Government Finance Committee (NLGFC) to “ignore” the recommendations of the report.
Malga–an umbrella body of all local government authorities in Malawi–says the report, among other things, leaves out key challenges “deliberately” and that it is “retrogressive” in context of the decentralization set up.
Presenting the report in the National Assembly, chairperson of the Parliamentary Ad hoc Committee on Constituency Development Fund and Water Development Fund Guidelines, Ralph Jooma, alleged that CDF is being abused at the hands of local council officials and called for speedy implementation of recommendations of the report.
“For instance, in Chikwawa, about MK40 million of CDF money was used to settle hospital costs. In Nkhata Bay, MK33 million was used for ceremonies to install traditional chiefs. And in Chitipa, there is also abuse of CDF. It is also sad that council officials are creating their own guidelines for utilizing CDF,” Jooma, a parliamentarian for Monkey Bay in Mangochi District, told journalists after presenting the report.
The report has, therefore, recommended the following, among other things; the opening of a special CDF current account in local councils so the money would be used for CDF projects only, Members of Parliament (MPs) should oversee every stage of implementation of CDF, Parliament should recruit CDF desk officers in local councils to handle CDF funds.
However, Malga, in a statement issued Friday, condemned the allegations against council officials in the report and its recommendations.
The statement is signed by councillor Wild Ndipo and Hadrod Zeru Mkandawire, president and acting executive director of the association, respectively.
Reads in part the statement, “We have observed that key issues regarding the challenges on the implementation of CDF and Borehole Fund have not come out of the report either deliberately or were left out during the study for the purposes of self-convenience to the parliamentarians. In addition, we have reservations with some of the recommendations in the report in the context of our decentralization set up”.
It goes on to say that Malga “would have loved” if the Parliamentary Ad Hoc Committee “could have” included in the report the extent to which parliamentarians disregard the current CDF and borehole fund guidelines to “abuse” these public funds.
“We base this argument on the fact that a report on audit findings and recommendations by the Central Audit Unit presented in Parliament by former Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe in June 2017, revealed that 20 legislators mismanaged CDF funds and recommended for their arrest.
“However, we are yet to see any arrests on recommendation from this particular report. In addition to the Central Audit Unit report, two former legislators are serving jail terms for theft and forgery crimes emanating from CDF mismanagement following investigations by the Anti-Corruption Bureau”.
The statement further says Malga expected the Parliamentary Ad Hoc Committee to include the extent to which CDF projects identified by Parliamentarians are aligned to district development plans and urban development plans respectively as these are development blue prints at the local level.
It says Malga “strongly” disagrees with a recommendation that CDF and Borehole Fund guidelines should be submitted to Parliament for approval as this is an administrative process which does not need Parliamentary approval.
“We, therefore, urge the Ministry of Local Government and National Local Government Finance Committee to ignore this recommendation”.
The statement adds: “We further condemn a recommendation that Parliament should recruit CDF Desk Officers to be stationed at all local councils to be handling CDF matters in the councils as this defeats the principle of devolution of human resource and territorial and subsidiarity approach to development implementation under which our decentralization is premised.
“We suspect that Parliamentarians want to use this approach as a concealed way to abuse CDF and Borehole funds. We, therefore, inform Parliamentarians that this arrangement will not be accepted. Malga would like to reiterate its earlier position that parliamentarians should consider having CDF managed centrally through Parliament and or other means so that CDF should be removed from the councils”.
The Malga statement also condemns the recommendation that parliamentarians should be the overseer of CDF funds.
“We would like to remind parliamentarians that the Public Finance Management Act mandates the controlling officers–district commissioners and chief executive officers–as controlling officers of all public funds in the councils and not otherwise. We, therefore, urge Ministry of Local Government and National Local Government Finance Committee to ignore this recommendation,” the statement says.
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