A study by Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) has found that taxpayers’ money is being abused in local councils due to failure to follow proper procedures and guidelines on procurement and project implementation.
With funding from the IM Swedish Development Partner, Mejn is implementing a five-year social accountability project titled Enhancing Social Accountability for Better Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) III Development Results and Outcomes by targeting national budget tracking at the local level.
Commenting on the findings on Friday in Lilongwe, Mejn executive director Bertha Phiri said taxpayers are denied development projects that could have transformed their lives.
She said: “I would rate the performance of councils on sound budgetary execution at 60 percent because there are serious gaps that need to be filled.
“We still don’t have district development plans, socio-economic profiles and yet at central level, we are advancing beautiful policies.”
Phiri said duty-bearers at the local council and central levels do not have desired oversight capacity to ensure value for money.
For instance, the study found that Funde Junior Primary School in Lifidzi Educational Zone in Salima South Constituency, funded by Constituency Development Fund started in 2017 and has stalled since 2019 at ring beam level and remains incomplete up to now.
The project is characterised by poor planning and poor project management as timber and cement were delivered in 2017 before the project started and almost half of the lot is damaged.
On his part, Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency executive director Willy Kambwandira said there is a deliberate ploy by public officers to bend procurement procedures to personally benefit from taxpayers’ money fraudulently.
He called for stiff punishment for public officers, legislators and procurement officers in councils involved in poor projects implementation.
IM Swedish Development Partner programme manager Kumbukani Kuntiya said communities are short-changed in the implementation of public projects, adding that they are looking forward to replicating the accountability project nationwide.
Ministry of Local Government deputy director of planning said they are reviewing the Local Government Act and Decentralisation Policy to sort out issues uncovered by the study.