Civil society organisations (CSOs) have come under fire for failing to contribute towards formulation, tracking and monitoring of the national budget.
Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament chairperson Rhino Chiphiko on Friday observed that local CSOs and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) do not contribute and always take a back seat when government is making budget consultations.
He was reacting to a report by National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi (Nasfam), which indicates that Malawi’s external debt stock has grown by 133.7 percent since securing the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (Hipc) debt relief in 2006.
The report was presented to the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources last Monday.
“CSOs and NGOs have a key role in ensuring fiscal discipline, governance, transparency and accountability. However, what we see in Malawi is different. We have CSOs and NGOs which are merely quick to criticise MPs when something goes wrong in the budget while they themselves do not participate in the budget formulation and tracking processes,” said Chiphiko.
He said inclusive and participatory budgeting processes could provide a vehicle for a meaningful socio-economic development of the country.
Dowa East member of Parliament (MP) Richard Chimwendo-Banda (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) wondered why the CSOs keep silent when opposition MPs protest some of the government policies, including unnecessary borrowing.
“We, as MPs, have sometimes unsuccessfully tried to reject Loan Authorisations Bills whose intentions are not clear. Why are CSOs silent when MPs are protesting further borrowing? As we go towards 2019 Tripartite Elections, what do you want us to tell our constituents as regards these loans?” he asked.
Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) executive director Dalitso Kubalasa admitted that CSOs have at times failed to assume their mandates.
He, however, assured that Malawians will soon see change in this regard.
Nasfam chief executive officer Bettie Chinyamunyamu expressed disappointment that such borrowing has failed to transform the livelihoods of the poor farmers in the country.
“We recommend that there should be a review of the programme-based budgeting framework so that projects should still have own performance targets in budget documents. There is need to strengthen monitoring of projects by stakeholders to ensure adherence to the terms of the loans and other impacts,” she said. n