MALGA differs with Minister Chinsinga on development of visions for local authorities

Malawi Local Government Association (MALGA) has differed with the Minister of Local Government, Professor Blessings Chinsinga, on his directive that District Commissioners (DCs) and Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of city municipal and town councils “must develop new visions and submit them to the ministry by 20 March, 2022.”

MALGA—an umbrella body for all local councils in Malawi—says Chinsinga’s directive is “grossly” misplaced, stressing that the responsibility of creating a vision for a local authority “does not lie in the hands of a DC or CEO”.

Hadrod Zeru Mkandawire

Chinsinga, a former university lecturer and political analyst who is relatively new at Ministry of Local Government, recently held an interactive meeting with the DCs and CEOs, where he ordered them to develop the new visions in line with the country’s long-term development blueprint—the Malawi Vision 2063 (MW2063).

The minister said failure by the DCs and CEOs to submit the new visions by 20 March, would be “unacceptable”.

Chinsinga, among other sentiments, added that these council controlling officers are crucial in delivering the decentralization process by bringing up new policies and development strategies for the betterment of the people they serve.

“The officers must be on the fore front to change the perception of people on local governments by building a brand that tells a great story of public service. This meeting was an opportunity for me to share with them the vision that I have for the ministry, particularly in context with the public sector reforms that are ongoing and also the principles imbedded in the MW2063,” Chinsinga told Malawi Broadcasting Corporation, after the meeting.

But in an interview with Nyasa Times, MALGA Executive Director, Hadrod Zeru Mkandawire, wondered what exactly the minister wants, saying the DCs and CEOs already submitted what is called “their visions” to three different cabinet ministers in the last three years, which should have been institutionalized.

“What must be clearly understood is that the vision of a local authority is anchored in the strategic plan and development blueprint of the council. The role of the DC or CEO alongside members of the executive management is just to devise strategies of how the vision should be collectively attained,” said Mkandawire.

He then called upon Chinsinga, as a new minister, to prioritize pushing the Central Government to meet its financial obligations to local authorities and respect what he described as “principles of subsidiary and territorial approach to development cooperation and implementation”.

“So far, in the few days he has been in office, we have observed with regret that the minister is focusing on things that are important in the medium and long term but not urgent at the moment to reposition the local authorities as vehicles of entrenching decentralization and local development.

“We expected him to articulate a central approach, where the position and meaning of a council as a local government authority need to be well clarified at central level and well conveyed to the Office of the President and Cabinet, because that is where we are clearly missing it.

Currently, local governments are treated as development agencies of the Central Government and departments of the Ministry of Local Government. This is improper. We need to properly service the engine of a council as the propeller of development at local level,” Mkandawire said.

In addition, MALGA has also advised the new minister to tread carefully and exercise “extreme restraint” not to fall in the usual trap of persecuting DCs and CEOs once there is a change in the ministry’s political leadership.

The association has further cautioned Chinsinga against unnecessary and unwarranted transferring of DCs and CEOs, stressing that “any transfer without the consent of the council leadership (mayors/chairpersons) will not be accepted as it defeats the whole essence of decentralization and principles of secondment.”

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