Zambia to learn from Malawi NGO project monitor – LGAZ

Vice President of the Local Government Association of Zambia (LGAZ), Councilor Coy Makaya, has said Zambia could learn from Malawi’s NGO project monitor, which ensures that project based Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) are signed between district councils and NGOs to, among others, track the impact of projects.

Makaya, a Council Chairman for Kolomo District in Southern Zambia, was reacting to the January-March, 2023 NGO project monitor report, which NGO Regulatory Authority (NGORA) presented during Malawi Local Government Association’s 17th Annual General Assembly in Salima.

Coy Makaya delivering a speech

Makaya represented LGAZ and Zambia at the general assembly.

NGORA—a state-owned registrar and regulator of all NGOs and civil society organizations—introduced the project monitor in January 2022 to also give the public quarterly updates of activities of NGOs at district level.

Further, the project monitor enables councils and citizens to know how worth and impactful the projects are.

Makaya observed that such a system of first engaging with district councils—through MoUs signing—indeed promotes transparency, as important information is laid bare, such as projects time-frames, amounts and challenges.

“It has come out clearly to me that district councils in Malawi have authority to monitor projects going on in their jurisdictions.

“I am incited as a council chair and LGAZ Vice President and representative of Zambia at this gathering. This system is a good model, for it makes it easier to monitor whoever comes in a council to do a particular project”.

Coy Makaya (right) listening to deliberations

According to NGORA, 17 out 28 districts are currently participating in signing project based MoUs.

Since January 2022, there are 439 new projects with an estimated budget of MK235.4 billion. Out of these, only 122 with an estimated budget of MK65.9 billion signed MoUs with district councils, representing 28 percent.

This, according to NGORA, is “not very worrisome considering that the NGO project monitor is still in its infancy and there are efforts geared at making it more acceptable”.

With that in mind, Makaya acknowledged that district councils in Zambia, as compared to Malawi, have gaps in terms of monitoring projects in their jurisdictions.

He added he had taken back home several lessons for the Zambian Registrar of Societies, which regulates NGOs and CSOs in Zambia.

“In Zambia, there is no reconciled position between NGOs and district councils. Zambia needs to reinforce its systems to have a standalone body like Malawi’s NGORA.

“We need to be effective and moving forward as district councils. We should be monitoring which projects are happening, by who and for what, with a body like NGORA providing guidance. Such practice will also help government and citizens”.

NGORA Chief Executive Officer, Voice Mhone, said the authority is humbled by Makaya’s sentiments.

“Most importantly, we attribute this initiative to conducive legal, policy and administrative environments the government has accorded us and the untiring support of our stakeholders.

“We have dedicated staff, more especially our district officers who compile projects information and working with the councils to ensure that the MoUs are signed”.

According to the NGO project monitor report for January – March, 2023, Dowa District Council is the best and number 1 in signing project based MoUs, having signed 20 out of 22 projects.

Mwanza is second, having signed 5 MoUs out of 7 projects. Mulanje is third, having signed 13 out of 16 projects.

This is how the Dowa District leadership celebrated the recognition:

“This achievement follows our recent efforts and mutual partnership with our CSO leadership and individual CSOs cooperation.

“Colleagues, let us all hold hands and keep on working together in a complementary manner”.

Karonga and Nsanje tried, having signed 20 MoUs out of 24 projects and 26 out of 31, respectively.

Lilongwe and Ntchisi performed poorly, having signed 4 out of 43 projects and 1 out of 21, respectively.

Currently, there are growing calls by lagging districts for strict adherence to project based MoUs, as expressed by, for instance, the District Commissioner for Chiradzulu Francis Matewere, to all NGOs, in a strongly worded letter dated 31 May, 2023.

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