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Constituency, local and district fraud rampant in Karonga

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SOME officials who are managing the implementation of projects under Constituency, Local and District Development funds continue to flout procedures, resulting into tax payers’ money going down the drain.

A recent research conducted by The Sunday Times has exposed glaring anomalies such as noninvolvement of communities. Some of the locals we talked to expressed concern over the practice of imposing projects on them, ignoring guidelines which promote the practice of consulting stakeholders.

A case in point is Lupembe Community Day Secondary School in Karonga District, where, in February 2015, the district council deployed a contractor to begin construction of a head teacher’s house against the wishes of community members.

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While acknowledging that the school faces the problem of shortage of teachers’ houses, chairperson of the Area Development Committee (ADC), Vincent Kayuni, said that does not give duty bearers the right to decide on people’s behalf.

Kayuni added that conflicting expenditure reports that the district council continues to provide to the community about the project are also raising suspicions.

“We were initially told that the house would cost K3 million but the figure keeps rising overtime and it is now pegged at K16 million. Looking at the standard of the house, it is obvious that expenditure is not commensurate with the quality of work that we see,” Kayuni said.

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He further expressed concern that construction of the house has gone beyond the recommended timeframe of under a year for every District Development Fund (DDF) project.

Mbande ADC chairperson, Smith Kalambo, observed that a lot of money is being siphoned through bogus purchases while intended projects remain incomplete.

Citing Chisya Fish Pond Project in the area, Kalambo said council records indicate that the fish pond project was completed to the tune of about K700, 000 and yet it is in shambles on the ground.

“They claim to have bought construction materials but they never brought any [to the site]. People were using personal hoes to excavate the trench guised as a fish pond. It is unfair,” he said.

A recent report of the Public Expenditure Tracking System (Pets) by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) for Karonga, Dowa and Phalombe corroborates our findings.

For instance, the report established that, on average, the three district councils allocate 10 percent of the DDF receipts to project administration expenses which is inconsistent with the current guidelines which provide for just five percent.

CCJP Projects Officer, Innocent Nazombe, in a separate interview stressed that, while correcting anomalies of the CDF and DDF, government should redefine the LDF Public Works Projects which he said are currently focused on the wages that people get and not necessarily on the intended output.

Commenting on behalf of Karonga District Council, Director of Planning and Development, David Gondwe, said the council has called for an independent probe into the alleged scam.

“Most of the officers here are new, we found these things and we were equally shocked with some of the developments and we are investigating,” Gondwe said.

Last year eight council officials in Karonga were arrested over an alleged syndicate which led to the abuse of over K25 million meant for the LDF Malawi Social Action Fund projects.

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