Ireland, one of Malawiâ€™s major donors, is demanding audited reports on all transport costs incurred by Malawi during last yearâ€™s implementation of the Farm Inputs Subsidy Programme (Fisp), as a pre-condition for continued funding.
The Irish Government has also asked Malawi to make progress towards appointing the new director for the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB). The future of the current director, Alexious Nampota, is in limbo as he has not been reporting for duties since April after the Joyce Banda administration asked him to resign, but he refused.
The ACB has since been paralysed as it technically has no director and deputy director who can authorise investigations, among other things.
Finance Minister Dr. Ken Lipenga, while admitting the absence of an effective Fisp complaints mechanism during last yearâ€™s exercise, has since assured Ireland that Lilongwe will address the concerns raised.
â€œTo release Irelandâ€™s funding for the Fisp this year, we need the conclusion of audits on the transport costs from last year and the reconciliation of the Reserve Bank of Malawi [RBM] accounts so that balances may be released in conjunction with the signing of MoU agreements for this yearâ€™s Fisp support from Ireland,â€ said Liz Higgins, the Irish ambassador, in a statement.
The statement was made at Capital Hill at the weekend during the signing ceremony of a grant agreement between Malawi and Ireland worth 350 000 euro (about K133 million) to support Fisp this year and the conducting of a governance and citizen perception survey.
Ireland has pledged to release 250 000 euro (about K100 million) to Fisp this year aimed at reviewing procurement systems, monitoring the process of redeeming inputs at the markets and agro dealers and the identification of cases of corruption which Higgins says â€˜has dogged Fisp over the past years.â€™
But if Malawi fails to release the audit, the money will not be released.
Fisp is one major component of the national budget as it accounts for over 10 percent of the total financial plan.
Said Higgins: â€œIrish people, who themselves are undergoing an austerity budget and have had to make considerable sacrifices, need to see how the money they provide through their taxes is used effectively and efficiently to help eradicate hunger and food insecurity.â€
She told Malawi Government officials at the ceremony that when funds are wasted, misappropriated or simply stolen, it is the poorest and most vulnerable people of Malawi who suffer most.
Higgins also stressed that her governmentâ€™s response this year should be treated by Malawi â€œas a transitionâ€ since Ireland wants long term planning for the Fisp needs.
On ACB, Higgins said Ireland wants to see progress by the Joyce Banda administration on the development of the multi-donor arrangement for supporting ACB.
â€œFor the ACB to function effectively, its independence, through having the necessary legislative underpinning the proper management and staffing and sufficient resources, is essential. We would like to see progress in appointing a director very soon,â€ she said.
On his part, Lipenga admitted that the evaluation of the Fisp last year noted the absence of an effective complaints mechanism for farmers to report corruption.
On the appointment of new ACB director, Lipenga disclosed that currently progress has been made as names have been nominated and are awaiting Parliament approval.
He, however, pleaded for patience, arguing the appointment of the new ACB director is a process that would need transparency and accountability.
The Irish Aid programme in Malawi is built around three key outcomes of increased food productivity and crop diversification adapted to climate change; improved nutrition and social support and improved governance and service delivery with a focus on household food security and resilience.