The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development has written the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) expressing disappointment for releasing a draft report critical of local councils without consulting the ministry.
About three weeks ago, the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) and CCJP released a report titled “Investigation and compilation of issues on local development resources management” under Citizen Action in Local Government Accountability (Calga) project.
The report which exposed gaps and abuse of resources in local councils followed a study which targeted six district councils of Ntchisi, Dowa, Mwanza, Neno, Karonga and Chitipa.
But in a letter addressed to CCJP national coordinator Boniface Chibwana, the ministry is particularly displeased with the dissemination of the report without its knowledge.
“Despite being a key ministry in this issue, this ministry was neither consulted nor shared with a copy of the said draft report let alone not involved in the assignment. The report has already provided for critical analysis of the implementation of decentralisation policy and Local Government Act of 1998 in relation to development projects at the council.
“The CCJP is aware that the Decentralisation policy and Local Government Act are anchored in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, my expectation therefore was that the draft report should have been triangulated with the ministry before being released to the public in order to validate the information and avoid speculation that the report has generated,” reads the letter dated November 5 2018, signed by Sphiwe Mauwa on behalf of Secretary for Local Government and Rural Development. Mauwa is Director of Local Government services.
In the letter, the ministry further expresses displeasure that it learnt of the findings of the study through newspapers. The ministry appealed to CCJP to learn to collaborate with government on such matters to attain better development results than working in competition.
When contacted for comment, Chibwana simply acknowledged receiving the letter, but refused to respond to our questions, saying they will engage the Ministry some time later.
Spokesperson for the Ministry Muhlabase Mughogho, while not stating specific issues the CCJP report may have misrepresented, stressed that the standard practice is that a concerned ministry is involved in such an assignment.
“We needed to be involved at some point. We should have tallied there information with ours as well as what we have gathered from the councils” Mughogho explained.
Among other key findings, the report exposed gross abuse of funds under different financing windows such as Local Development Fund (LDF), Constituency Development Fund (CDF) District Development Fund (DDF) and the newly introduced fund from the controversial K4 billion.
The CCJP study indicated that while records show that government disbursed the K4 billion to all constituencies—in most of them the funds are yet to reach intended beneficiaries. It also highlights poor management of revenue collection in most councils. n