A Dan Church Aid (DCA) budget baseline survey draft report has exposed a nexus of challenges in the management and performance of development funds, notably Local Development Fund (LDF), Constituency Development Fund (CDF) and District Development Fund (DDF) in the country.
The challenges include mal-administration, suspected fraud, legislators having absolute control over the identification of projects and administration of CDFs, failure by local councils to implement participatory budgeting and Capital Hill’s failure to completely devolve its functions to local councils.
The report presents findings of an analysis of the budgetary allocations for 2014/15 Financial Year and local revenues generated in the seven district councils of Chitipa, Karonga, Dowa, Lilongwe, Mwanza, Neno and Chikwawa.
For instance, the study reveals that 55 percent of LDF projects in the seven districts were never completed due to mal-administration and suspected fraud, with the majority (73 percent) of the sampled projects classified as not satisfying to community members.
“Culverts built in Karonga were for example viewed to be of poor quality such that community members anticipate it would not last up to eight months. A school block constructed at Longwani in Dowa had poor materials for the windows and the floor was poorly constructed again to the dissatisfaction of the community members.
“In Chikwawa District, for example, some of the uncompleted projects include Conjunction Market at Traditional Authority [T/A] Ngabu, Nkhwangwa CDSS School Block in T/A Ngabu, Mankhuwira Guardian Shelter in T/A Mankhuwira, Mwai School Block in T/ A Maseya, Kalima Health Centre project in T/A Maseya and Ndirande CDSS class room block in T/A Lundu area,” reads the report in part.
The LDF Secretariat has also been faulted for limiting the type and number of projects to be implemented which, it says, is contrary to the initial design of the fund where district councils were supposed to submit proposals based on need for funding.
On implementation of CDF, the study indicates that legislators have absolute control over the identification of projects and administration of the allocated funds, which is a significant departure from their primary lawmaking and oversight roles.
“MPs unilaterally choose which project, who to implement and where to implement CDF funded projects in their constituencies. The study learnt that in the 2014/15FY each constituency was allocated K9 million, however, as many as 71 percent of sampled CDF projects were never completed.”
On participatory budgeting, the report reveals that only Neno District Council conducts budget consultations with members of the community and interest groups.
It also reports of knowledge gap in financial matters, with councillors in Chitipa feeling they are not fully knowledgeable on all financial affairs of the council, as the financial reports are consolidated in nature lacking detailed information for the councillors to interpret easily.
According to the report, the financial reports are not detailed, which curtails the ability of councillors and ADC members to interrogate and fully understand the reports.
But LDF communications officer Ina Thombozi, in an e-mail response on Thursday, said the institution always monitors the implementation of all its projects and has a database of each approved project.
“Considering the wide array of projects implemented around the period under review in the study, one would be interested to know what type of projects and where the sample study was made.
“In the period under review, especially in Karonga and Chitipa, we had just finalised the implementation of the Crisis Response Project responding to the earthquake that devastated a lot of social infrastructure in the area around 2010 to 2012,” she said.
Therefore, she said it is difficult for LDF to comment on the figures alluded to in the report, arguing the 55 percent of projects said not to have been completed under the LDF is a gross misrepresentation.
DCA is implementing a 15-months governance project entitled Citizen Action in Local Governance Accountability. The project is funded by Tilitonse, a grant making facility which promotes governance that is increasingly inclusive, accountable and responsive to citizens. n