Battle lines have been drawn between Parliament and the Malawi Local Government Association (Malga) over the management of Constituency Development Fund (CDF) with Malga protesting proposals to give legislators a bigger say on the fund.
The fight follows a report by an ad hoc parliamentary committee which reviewed the administration of the annual K40 million allocation to each of the 193 constituencies through local government councils.
The report noted several shortfalls in the management of CDF as well as Borehole Fund and proposed that members of Parliament should take over control.
Chitipa Southmember of Parliament (MP) Werani Chilenga (Democratic progressive Party-DPP) has since come up with a private member’s motion asking Parliament to pass a resolution to facilitate the moving of the administration of CDF from local councils to legislators.
Reads the motion: “That having adopted the report by the ad hoc committee on CDF and Water Development Fund on 18th March, 2021 and in view of the reaction of the Malawi Local Government Association through a press release issued on Saturday 19th March, in which the association viciously attacked the members of this House… This house resolves that the Minister of Finance should transfer all the CDF resources from the councils to the National Assembly with effect from the 2021/22 financial year.”
In an interview yesterday, Chilenga said the motion is based on consultation with fellow legislators.
In its statement co-signed by Malga president and Blantyre City Mayor Wild Ndipo and acting executive director Hadrod Mkandawire, Malga argues that it is hypocritical for the committee to squarely blame councils for poor administration of CDF when previous audit reports revealed that MPs were involved in the abuse of CDF.
“We would have loved if the Parliamentary Ad Hoc Committee could have included in the report the extent to which parliamentarians disregard the current CDF and borehole funds guidelines to abuse these public funds,” says Malga in the statement.
Malga’s its argument is based on the findings of an audit report in 2017 which was presented in the National Assembly and showed that 20 MPs were implicated in alleged the fund.
Two weeks ago, Public Appointments Committee (PAC) of Parliament chairperson Shadreck Namalomba presented findings of a special audit of CDF which faulted some current and former MPs for abusing CDF.
Without mentioning the alleged culprits, he called on law enforcement agencies to prosecute the concerned MPs to deter others from doing so.
Malga also rejects the proposal from Parliament to have CDF desk officers, saying such an arrangement will provide a fertile ground for abuse of the funds.
Further reads the Malga statement: “We also condemn the recommendation that councillors should be removed from presenting CDF Project Report to the councils and [that] instead this responsibility should be exclusive to parliamentarians.
“We would like to remind the parliamentarians that local development anchoring remains with ward councillors.”
In its findings, the ad hoc committee, among other things, noted that councils ignored guidelines and used funds for unintended purposes.
The committee cited Chikwawa and Nkhata Bay as some of the cases.
In Chikwawa, the report said, it was indicated that “CDF resources amounting to over K30 million were diverted for settlement of hospital bills and installation of chiefs” while in Nkhata Bay, K33 million was spent on the installation of chiefs and allowances for ministerial visits contrary to CDF guidelines.
The ad hoc parliamentary committee report presented by its chairperson and Mangochi Monkey Bay lawmaker Ralph Jooma proposed: “That all district and city councils should open and maintain separate CDF current accounts for smooth management of the fund as provided for in the current guidelines.
“The Parliament of Malawi should recruit CDF desk officers to be stationed at all local councils to be handling all CDF matters at the councils.”
CDF was introduced in 2006 to facilitate development in constituencies.
But the fund has been prone to abuse with several audit reports highlighting weak accountability and management tools.
Currently, at least six legislators are under investigation over alleged mismanagement of CDF while former Mzimba Hora MP Christopher Mzomera Ngwira was last year convicted for abuse of CDF resources.