The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) says traditional leaders have a role to play in holding local councils accountable on use of public funds.
Mzuzu CCJP diocesan secretary Arnold Msimuko said this during an orientation meeting for chiefs in Mzimba on the Strengthened Citizen Participation for Transparent and Accountable Local Government Project the organisation is implementing in the district.
The project was borne out of reports that fraud and accountability queries have dogged local councils which are failing to produce comprehensive expenditure reports following increased funding from K3 billion to K34.2 billion in a decade due to decentralisation.
Said Msimuko: “CCJP believes that traditional leaders are the only hope to get rid of fraud in councils because they are custodians of the people [and their roles].”
He said chiefs have an influence to change things because they are “sons or daughters of a district they are serving”.
“When chiefs speak, people listen. So, they need to use their authority to point out grey areas in their councils if we are to deal with fraud.”
Chiefs in the district unanimously agreed that the project will give them a voice to hold leaders accountable on various development projects.
Traditional Authority (T/A) Jalavikuba said chiefs in the district are usually sidelined in various projects.
“We seem to be needed during planning only, but sidelined in the implementation of the projects,” he said.
Inkosi ya Makhosi M’mbelwa said if CCJP is to achieve its objective, it needs to strengthen the capacity of councillors who do not know their role to the extent of thinking that chiefs are their competitors.
“The capacity of most councillors leaves a lot to be desired. And this is the cause of conflict in councils. Government needs to put a higher qualification as a pre-requisite for one to compete as a councillor,” said M’mbelwa. n