The long awaited guidelines for the K4 billion donation from Treasury have been compiled and as expected, all indications are that the funding was done hurriedly with little thought for the implications on the existing local government structures.
The fund, or Community Managed Socio-Economic Project Fund (CMSEP), to give it a semblance of legitimacy and credibility, has edged out councillors and local communities in favour of members of Parliament (MPs) who would be responsible for approving the projects in ‘consultation’ with Area Development Committees (ADCs).
This being a community managed fund, who should be consulted between MPs and councillors and ADCs?
MPs already have K24 million for Constituency Development Fund (CDF) which some have abused with very little to show for so many millions being plowed into projects. Not long ago, the same Treasury which is giving out billions like it grows on trees threatened to reduce CDF when an audit revealed theft and fraud in its administration.
Councillors on the other hand, have not been tried to manage community projects and the K4 billion would have been a start but once again the legislative and executive have thwarted the chance from them.
As if giving such powers to an MP was not enough, Parliament adopted a motion that would compel Treasury to disburse CDF funds by December, 2018. At face value, the MPs claim they have in mind their constituents who are major beneficiaries of projects that are not completed because Treasury does not disburse remaining funds once the Parliamentarian term elapses before elections.
But MPs cannot be that benevolent. The motion is about them and the campaign. It’s about the MPs to retain seats in Parliament come May 2019. CDF is simply used as a campaign gimmick and the constituents are just by-products of the MPs looking to be seemingly caring.
This is just a move calculated to ensure projects are completed in time for the 2019 election campaign period. In all this, MPs are not the ones to blame in totality: The shortsighted administration of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) takes the blame for this.
The Public Service Reform Programme (PSRP) under Vice-President Saulos Chilima then, set out with the aim to reform the roles of MPs, chiefs and councillors at the local government level to remove MPs from being involved in the decision making process.
There are over 40 000 traditional leaders on the government payroll but the proposal to trim this number was not popular. Who would the politicians use to castigate government opposition to its policies? Who would Malawi Broadcasting Corporation and the DPP propaganda machinery parade against electoral reforms and public protests against poor governance?
It is only at times like this, before elections, that the role of traditional leaders can be blatantly ignored in favour of political machinations in Parliament and the constituency.
If the councillors and MPs did not see each other eye to eye on their roles at the councils, what more should we expect when a fund that was essentially meant for their control is wrestled away from them by money-hungry legislatures?
History shows that Malawi is not short of trial-and-error policies that have failed miserably due to lack of planning: the Youth Development Fund, Mudzi Transformation Trust, One Cow One Family come to mind—all brilliant ideas on paper but failed miserably.
Once again, with one hand this government has given away billions to unemployed youths in the name of tree-planting and with the other hand begs donors for budgetary assistance to support the same budget that rewards youths for performing their civic duty.
Where is the sense of decency when politicians and public servants can connive to spend billions for selfish interests, to win elections and the mandate to steal more that comes with public office?
Every citizen for whom this K4 billion was intended should be angry and demand accountability and make sure every tambala is traced and accounted for.
When that MP or council comes to seek another mandate for 2019, first ask what they have done with the K20 million from Treasury. Sadly, the government is sitting on the Access to Information Act.