MALGA excited with councils 61% score in 2021 LAPA

Malawi Local Government Association (MALGA)—an umbrella body for all local councils—says it is delighted with the results of the 2021 Local Authorities Performance Assessment (LAPA), which show that 26 district
councils out of 28 have improved their performance and effectively qualified for the 2022 Performance Based Grants (PBG).

The assessment, an independent assessor—SP Trainers and Research Consultants—conducted from November 1 to 26, places the councils collective performance at 61 percent, which is way above the 2020 score at 41 percent.

Hadrod Zeru Mkandawire, MALGA Executive Director

MALGA Executive Director, Hadrod Zeru Mkandawire, said the results vindicate the association’s “persistent narrative that local government authorities are significantly improving every day”.

LAPA is sanctioned by the Ministry of Local Government to determine whether local authorities have the basic capacities or institutional safeguards to manage development grants and provide fiscal incentives to improved local authorities’ performance by rewarding good performers and penalizing poor performers.

The assessment also seeks to identify performance gaps and inform the development and implementation of performance improvement plans for local authorities.

After the assessment, councils that have performed well qualify for PBGs under a five-year MK90 billion Governance to Enable Service Delivery (GESD) project, which the World Bank supports in order to
strengthen institutional capacity and performance of the councils.

Mkandawire said the councils improvement from an average 40 percent to above 60 percent within 12 months, gives hope and confidence that they can do even much better in the next three years in terms of performance and adhering to set guidelines and public finance management legal frameworks.

“There has been a wrong narrative that local authorities are a mess. But we are happy that this well organized and analyzed assessment, done by a reputable independent consultant, proves otherwise. The results are credible, objective and reflect the true picture of what is on the ground,” said Mkandawire.

The GESD project disbursed MK4.5 billion in 2021 to 22 eligible local authorities and plans to disburse MK11.7 billion in 2022 as PBGs to the 26 councils.

The funds are meant for infrastructure development projects in the local authorities. Blantyre and Ntcheu district councils will not benefit from PBGs for 2022 after failing to pass the Minimum Access Conditions (MACs) test during the previous year’s assessment.

These two councils reportedly failed because they spent District Development Fund (DDF) allocation on ineligible expenses.

However, Mkandawire said Blantyre and Ntcheu should not be completely left out for it is the citizens that will eventually lose out and suffer without the PBGs.

“We think there must still be a way for the money to get to the two local authorities. The government should discuss this with the donor and other relevant stakeholders, including us, MALGA,” said Mkandawire.

But the 2021 LAPA exposed some public finance management gaps in the 28 local councils, ranging from inefficiencies in development planning, budgeting and auditing to contract management and implementation.

And Mkandawire said these gaps ought to be addressed by, among other things, staffing the councils with the right quantity and quality of personnel in order to address the current high vacancy rate in the councils.

“In fact, as local government authorities, we will not be overexcited with the results in view of these gaps. We will be on our toes so that the gains should not be eroded. We will build on the gains in order to perform much better in the next assessment,” Mkandawire said.

He also urged the government to start meeting its constitutional and statutory obligations towards the local government authorities in order to sustain the gains.

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