Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) has faulted government for allocating more resources to local councils despite their glaring evidence of mismanagement.
In response to Parliament’s approval of the K1.7 trillion National Budget, where K294 billion was allocated to city and district councils, Mejn executive director Grace Kumchulesi said the increased allocation to councils is not prudent when there is an audit report of mismanagement that has not been acted upon.
She said: “The recent audit report exposed gross misallocation of funds in local councils, and yet our honourable members approved the increase in allocations to local councils without first demanding efficient systems that promote transparency and accountability. It does not make sense that CDF [Constituency Development Fund] has been increased amid all its challenges in implementation.”
But in the current budget, CDF which is controlled by members of Parliament (MPs), has remained at K30 million, with an increase in allocation for water projects from K12 million per constituency last year to K20 million this year, thereby raising CDF from K42 million to K50 million.
About K5.9 billion is feared missing or stolen in the local councils in the fiscal year ending June 30 2018, calculations from a National Audit Office (NAO) Compliance Audit of Local Councils report shows.
According to the NAO Compliance Audit of Local Councils report for city and district councils released in March this year and sent to Parliament for tabling on December 31 2018, it found 13 major loopholes through which taxpayers’ money may have been wasted.
For instance, of the K5.9 billion, payments vouchers not submitted for audit amounted to K2.1 billion, while payment without supporting documents were worth K760 million, unaccounted for fuel, totalled K740 million, unaccounted for cash withdraws amounted to K686 million, procurement irregularities totalled K629 million, payments charged to wrong budget line items amounted to K510 million and stores not recorded in stores ledger totalled K424 million.
The report has since been referred to the Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts for scrutiny.
Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Ben Phiri, in his ministerial updates on achievements of his ministry last week, said his ministry will deal with officers who mismanaged government resources.
Kumchulesi, who described the national budget as a disappointment, questioned the oversight role of Parliament when they cannot influence change in the way the Executive runs the nation’s business.
Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Joseph Mwananvekha expressed gratitude for Parliament’s approval of his maiden K1.7 trillion budget which represents 27.6 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).
The budget was initially pegged at K1 730 987 000 000 but has since been revised to K1 737 203 889 804, representing an increment of about K6.2 billion.