The Malawi Local Government Association (Malga)–an umbrella body of all local councils–has expressed its concern over the withdrawal of Coronavirus (Covid-19) funds from councils by the central government, saying the decision “undermines the spirit of decentralization”.
Malga acting executive director, Hadrod Zeru Mkandawire, made these sentiments in an interview with Nyasa Times, adding that central government overlooked political leaderships of the councils when it made such a “serious” decision
The concerns come barely two days after central government, through Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) and Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19, blocked local councils and some clusters from spending their portions in the MK17 billion Covid-19 funding–which government released to finance various public sector interventions in the fight against the pandemic.
Dodma and the presidential taskforce also ordered councils and clusters to transfer back all their remaining amounts to Dodma’s account and further directed them to submit their proposed itemized activity plans.
Apparently, all local councils had been allocated one billion kwacha–from which each council was given a befitting amount to procure facemasks meant to be distributed freely to needy citizens.
Dodma and the presidential taskforce never gave reasons why government decided to withdraw these funds from local councils.
Nevertheless, Mkandawire bashed their decision, further describing it as “smacking of hypocrisy”.
He said: “We are disturbed by the decision taken by the Central Government to withdraw Covid funds from local governments drawn from the K17.5 billion. Though no official reasons have been provided for this withdraw, the central government is insinuating that the local councils are not capable of managing the Covid funding prudently hence probably instructing the local governments to submit intervention plans for action”.
Mkandawire added that the decision not only smacks of hypocrisy but also undermines the spirit of decentralization and respect for territorial approach to development and policy implementation within the set up of “our devolution”.
“The decision is hypocritical because the central government is trying to pitch itself as a saint and yet records and reports indicate otherwise as far as management of Covid funding is concerned. Actually, proportionally, the local governments have done much better in the fight against Covid 19 notwithstanding the impending investigations on the same in the wake of the interdiction of DCs and CEOs,” he said.
He further said Malga wonders if the central government took into consideration ripple effects and local economic benefits the funding would have done at the local level as face masks would have been procured locally.
“Furthermore, the withdrawal of the funding has come at a time most councils were at advanced stage in procuring the face masks from local suppliers and central government has not provided a clear guidance on this.
“We, therefore, urge the central government to critically analyse its decision and see if indeed it will effectively contribute to the fight against Covid 19 at the local level or not because Malawians will hold central government accountable should there be a mess,” said Mkandawire.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :