Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera has faulted the current way of implementing Constituency Development Fund (CDF), saying it is discriminatory due to differences in constituency radius and population.
He said it was a clear sign of inequality where constituencies that are too big get the same share—currently at K21 million per financial year—as those which are small and have small populations.
Chakwera, who was leader of opposition in Parliament between 2014 and 2019, was speaking during a whistle stop rally at Ekwendeni in Mzimba at the weekend.
He has since pledged to push for constituency demarcation exercise after the May 21 Tripartite Elections so that equality prevails.
Mzimba is one of the districts in the country which has big constituencies.
Said Chakwera: “Some constituencies have a population and a distance that equal some districts where you have may be six constituencies. Mzimba North should definitely have three constituencies. In terms of having equitable distribution of CDF, you cannot have CDF covering such long distances and huge population while in some other places, the CDF covers a few people and a little distance.”
He said Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) said they did not review these areas as they were waiting for the 2018 Population and Housing Census.
“This is what I have been pleading for, and this is what we will make sure happens because development is every Malawian’s right,” said the MCP president.
In March 2017, MEC said demarcation of wards in constituencies which have been facing some anomalies will be conducted in 2020 after the second tripartite elections in 2019.
MEC chairperson Justice Jane Ansah said the electoral body could not carry out a ward demarcation exercise because they base their exercise on population censuses that are periodically carried out by the Nation Statistical Office (NSO).
Section 76 of the Malawi Constitution mandates MEC to determine constituency boundaries impartially on the basis of ensuring that constituencies contain approximately equal numbers of voters eligible to register.
This is subject only to considerations of population density, ease of communication, geographical features and existing administrative areas.
Section 76 (2b) also empowers MEC to review existing constituency boundaries at intervals of not more than five years and alter them in accordance with the principles laid down above.
In February 2019 after nearly two years of revelations concerning some legislators abusing CDF, National Audit Office (NAO) audit established that some members of Parliament (MPs) abused K118 million.
Titled Report on Accounts of Local Councils for The Year Ended June 30 2017, the audit showed that the funds were largely abused through payments for projects that did not exist.
The Auditor General said in the report that MPs were major culprits as they are said to have identified projects and facilitated payments without following CDF guidelines.
In the 2016/17 financial year, Parliament approved K18 million for CDF, translating to K3.4 billion for the 193 legislators.
The report vindicates sentiments by Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe in Parliament in June 2017 that there was “gross mismanagement of the CDF and District Development Fund [DDF]” which a preliminary report found that about K80 million CDF funds could not be accounted for in 16 districts in the 2016/17 financial year.