Speaker for Parliament Catherine Gotani Hara says her office will track funds allocated to various government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to ensure they are used for intended purposes.
The Speaker said this on Thursday in an interview in Lilongwe on the sidelines of the launch of phase two of ActionAid Malawi’s Social Accountability Project.
She said unlike in the past, her office has now been capacitated by the social accountability project courtesy of ActionAid Malawi.
Soon after Parliament passed the 2019/20 financial budget to allow government begin spending from the K1.7 trillion pocket, ActionAid launched phase two of its Social Accountability Project which seeks to capacitate parliamentarians to efficiently play their oversight role on funds disbursed.
Hara said: “The [parliamentary]
committees are there to investigate and get information on issues that are in the public domain. What has been happening in some committees is that even after they meet and have issues to present to Parliament, they had challenges investigating issues further due to lack of funding.
“We do the oversight role, but in terms of taking the issues further, we can now begin reporting matters to the Ombudsman or Anti-Corruption Bureau [ACB] for further action.”
She said the budget her committees has been getting from government provided limitations on how far they could go with issues in terms of their oversight role.
Added Hara: “Our budget was limiting us on how much we could do in the oversight process… Sometimes, we have heard about the funding being diverted to other equally important departments and that could not be questioned. We now want to know in advance the reasons why it cannot do what they planned and decide to do something different.”
However, the new partnership with the Social Accountability Project will strengthen social accountability in impact areas of health and agriculture, including other sectors whose resources are not properly accounted for within the government system.
According to the 2019/20 Appropriation Bill, the agriculture sector has been allocated K167 billion while the health sector has K87 billion. The two institutions are critical as they touch on livelihoods.
ActionAid executive director Assan Golowa said in an interview the organisation launched the programme with a focus on the two institutions to ensure that resources are tracked and policed.
He said: “Parliament has that extra responsibility to follow on the resources beyond passing the budget. But the citizens have even a bigger responsibility to hold accountable those that are in public office to ensure the promises made to them are achieved.
But governance expert Henry Chingaipe said in an interview the initiative will require the civil society to provide relevant information to Parliament on governance if they are to help them carry their oversight role effectively.
He said: “I would not say there could be any stumbling blocks. Maybe the challenge could be that MPs do not meet frequently. But if data is provided to Parliament, I see complements than challenges.”
According to Golowa, the first phase of the project was fairly successful as it established the parliamentary budget office which is now functional in the House.