Members of Parliament (MPs) should relinquish control of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) to ward councillors to focus on their primary function of making laws and providing oversight, a study by governance analysts has proposed.
A report on a review of budgetary allocations and local revenues generated in seven selected district councils in the country revealed that Local Development Fund (LDF), District Development Fund (DDF) and CDF-funded projects are shoddy, incomplete, have stalled, abandoned or completed but not in usable form.
The report, prepared by Andrew Mpesi, Roy Hauya and Kalako Mondiwa, recommends that MPs should delegate the handling and management of CDF funds to councillors to ensure increased community involvement in both project identification and project management.
Reads the report in part: “In the long run, government should also consider legally moving the administration of CDF from MPs to councillors. This is because MPs’ primarily serve an oversight function which is crippled once they get involved in implementation of projects.”
Other recommendations in the report include the need for government to consider devolving more of its functions to local councils and that effort should be made to create community awareness on participatory budgeting and to build community-driven demand for accountability and transparency from district councils and MPs.
“Guidelines for LDF and CDF must be revised to take into consideration the presence of councillors. The current guidelines were developed at the time when there were no councilors; hence, councillors do not necessarily have powers to question on how these funds are being used,” reads the report.
In the Strengthening Local Government Accountability for Development Resources and Results Thematic Area Report that tracked Public Expenditure Tracking for CDF, DDF, and LDF for the 2016/17 financial year in Dowa District, it was revealed that there are a lot of discrepancies in fund allocation and disbursements in DDF, CDF and LDF.
Reads the report: “The time of disbursement is also not being done according to plan. The report has further identified other anomalies in terms of local community participation, late procurement of materials, delay in the implementation of the project which is affecting the quality of the projects being implemented.”
The report also proposes the need to lobby the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, National Local Government Finance Committee (NLGFC) and Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development to ensure timely disbursement of the funds and to reduce anomalies on monthly allocation against actual disbursement, observing that the two need to match.
Social analyst Andrew Mpesi said one key area the country needs to address is strengthening the decentralisation system. He added that community leaders and councillors should also have the capacity to provide oversight functions over public resources.
He said: “There is need to apply in full the law. The culture of just transferring corrupt personnel [from councils] does not help.”
Mpesi also proposed the creation of a social and economic environment where men and women can develop their personalities and talents to their country’s benefit besides their own.
He said: “Malawians should know that a State that has weak, inefficient and ineffective institutions cannot deliver the much needed development to its citizens.
“The development philosophy must be premised on the State providing necessary incentives so that its citizens are able to unleash their capabilities.
“The State must create an atmosphere for responsible private sector led investment for sustainable development.”
In random interviews with The Nation, it was observed that much as most legislators know their roles and functions, they are not ready to let go of CDF.
Chitipa South MP Werani Chilenga (People’s Party-PP) said no MP would support the handing over of CDF to the councillors.
He said: “Even the councillors are political. So, no member of Parliament would support this move.”
Ntchisi North MP Boniface Kadzamira (independent) said much as the role of the MPs was oversight and representation, there was need to appreciate the background behind the setting up of the CDF in 2005.
He said: “You people do understand the role of the MP but some people out there they don’t. Questions like what your MP has done for you keep on coming.”
Kadzamira said CDF was created to cut on bureaucracy in government when managing small-scale projects.
He said: “It used to take two to three months to ask for government to repair a classroom. With CDF guidelines, MPs work with councillors and the communities.”
Mulanje South legislator Bon Kalindo (Democratic Progressive Party-DPP) said the management of CDF and DDF has caused conflict in the constituencies between MPs and councillors.
He said councillors, who see themselves as MPs-in-waiting, ensure that the incumbent MP fails in his or her development efforts for them to capaitalise on the shortfalls during election campaign.
Said Kalindo: “Politicisation of these developmental activities is what is affecting the efforts in the communities.”
Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development spokesperson Davis Sado said most people do not appreciate that government has prioritised social protection programmes and is spending a lot on what was perceived as handouts.
He also said Public Works Programmes (PWPs) and the Social Cash Transfers (SCTs) projects offer households an opportunity to lead a decent livelihood and in the process start engaging and taking part in community development activities, including sending their children to school and accessing health.
He said LDF works with oversight institutions such as the National Audit Office (NAO) and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to safeguard the resources it disburses to councils for the implementation of its projects besides continued supervision and monitoring of project implementation.
Said Sado: “Where cases of corruption and theft are discovered, special audits and investigations are undertaken to gather evidence and culprits are prosecuted while the councils are penalised by not accessing further funding until systems are put in place to remedy the risk.” n