The National Democratic Institute (NDI) is a non-profit making organisation which supports and strengthens democratic institutions through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government. NDI is also involved in public expenditure tracking project (PET) to ensure accountability of public funds at local government, especially at council level. Our reporter HOWARD MLOZI engages NDI Resident Country Director for NDI Malawi Sandy Quimbay on their work:
What is public expenditure tracking (PET) all about?
Public expenditure tracking (PET) is a guide which has been developed for application by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), interested citizens and other groups such as Area Development Committees (ADCs) and Village Development Committees (VDCs). Basically, it is a tool used to help stakeholders such as ward councilors, citizens, and other interested stakeholders to track, understand and discuss the flow of public money from the original source to the targeted beneficiaries. This process includes how money is spent, and whether the money is allocated according to defined local priorities.
How does it work?
The guide focuses on diverse approaches to building accountability and transparency in the management of public resources. The key aspect of this approach relies on engagement from citizens working in collaboration with CSOs to demand accountability and transparency from their local governments. Overall, PET ensures that there is active citizen participation and evidence-based advocacy in community and national development to ensure that duty bearers such Members of Parliament (MPs) are accountable.
For example, there are citizens’ accountability clubs that demand their rights from duty bearers on a particular commitment such as water and health. They are empowered to know how much budgets have been allocated to councils and track them whether the money is benefiting the communities.
Basically, what NDI does is to give citizens technical assistance on how to go about how to improving their advocacy efforts and tools they can use effectively and efficiently achieve their efforts.
Does Malawi need public expenditure tracking?
Absolutely yes, tracking the use of local government funds is part of Malawi Government’s policy of decentralisation called Mphamvu ku Anthu.
Mphamvu ku Anthu empowers citizens in a local area to express their needs to their elected officials and local government representatives. This concept applies to citizens, CSOs, ADC and VDC members, and other citizens who have an interest in following up on how public funds are being used.
Equally important is the ability of citizens to monitor the quality of service delivery and implementation of development projects in their local areas. Attention must be provided to the way in which women and men can benefit from, and have access to, economic and financial resources and that gender equality perspectives be fully integrated in all economic decision-making including as they relate to public sector expenditures, private sector investments and development assistance.
What does NDI wants to see at the end of the day?
Our priority is to see improved service delivery for the communities. A key aspect to this work is champions for accountability work such as chiefs which CSOs develop relationships with. Chiefs and other stakeholders are essential to this because this is the only way we can see a more responsive elected officials and accountability at the end of the day. We also want to improve working relationship between communities and elected officials.
Are you satisfied with the outcomes of PET so far?
We are proud with the work our partners are doing because citizens are now opening up to issues that affect them and take action. We have a strong bond with our partners.
How does the future of this project look?
We are looking forward how the groups are empowered to make a difference in the forthcoming elections because it’s a cycle. Whatever we are teaching our partners today, must be applied in future for improved debates on how council budgets work. If they understand that they will be able to demand their rights.