The Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) has ordered all councils to transfer back about K17.2 billion they received earlier this month for the Covid-19 response.
A communication reference number M3/01/57, dated February 24 2020, addressed to chief executive officers (CEOs) and district commissioners (DCs) in the country’s 35 local government councils and signed by Disaster Management Affairs response and recovery director Reverend Moses Chimphepo, on behalf of the commissioner, says all councils must immediately transfer their respective funds back into the Dodma account.
The communication states that the decision follows resolutions made by the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 at a meeting held on February 23 2021 at Bingu International Convention Centre in Lilongwe to guide the utilisation of the funds.
Reads the communication in part: “Except for the ministries of Health and Education, all clusters and councils must stop spending the allocated resources with immediate effect.
“All councils must urgently submit their proposed itemised activity plans on how they intend to spend their allocations to Dodma in time for Dodma to circulate to members of the Presidential Task Force on Coronavirus the consolidated council plans by Friday, 26th February, 2021.”
Dodma further reminds the councils to submit monthly expenditure reports for February 2021 by March 5 2021.
In an interview yesterday, Chimphepo confirmed issuing the communication, but said the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 was better-placed to provide details.
When contacted in a separate interview, task force co-chairperson Dr Wilfred Chalamira Nkhoma said they made the resolutions to safeguard the expenditure of the funds by ensuring that only activities that are consistent with Covid-19 control are being implemented.
He said: “They [councils] had submitted plans when they got that money. The task force would like to be assured that the activities proposed are in line with Covid-19 control.
“If what they have already spent is consistent with what they had written in their approved plans, then reports to that effect is going to show because they are supposed to be submitting their monthly report.
“These monthly reports include technical financial accountability and therefore, it will be possible to see and track if some money was already used and what it was used on.”
In a separate interview, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) national coordinator Luke Tembo observed that the decision will cripple the Covid-19 response at council level.
He said HRDC is aware that the government system is porous both at district and national levels.
Said Tembo: “Government should have found alternative means to seal loopholes at district level. What happens now to the interventions at district level? Have they put in place measures to make sure that while they recall the money, we don’t suffocate those interventions?”
Last week, President Lazarus Chakwera directed the interdiction of controlling officers including 10 principal secretaries, 28 DCs and five CEOs over accountability of K6.2 billion Covid-19 response funds.
The President’s decision came two days after he removed Dodma commissioner James Chiusiwa and Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 co-chairperson Dr John Phuka for purported technical slips.