Some two decades ago, Malawi embraced the concept of decentralisation. In essence, decentralisation means that local communities must be empowered to decide and plan for development projects that they need in their areas.
Such decisions are made through structures such as development committees at village, area and district levels. The ultimate level for decision making is at district council level through councillors. Councillors are elected officials from the communities.
These officials know challenges besetting their communities and are, therefore, able to propose solutions to the same.
Because councillors live in the communities, they feel the pinch of problems that their societies face. These are the people who can keep secretariat staff at district councils in check.
It is, therefore, worrisome that members of staff at the district council secretariat in Nkhotakota have decided to formulate a budget for the district without involving the councillors.
A Child Responsive Budgeting being implemented by the Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) with funding from the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has revealed that the council is failing to implement the concept of decentralisation.
Councillors have complained that they are being subjected to a top-bottom approach to development, not by Capital Hill, but by their own secretariat at the DC’s office.
This development is unfortunate and illegal.
Many districts are lagging behind in terms of development because their secretariats have either failed to prioritise development or have simply misappropriated funds meant to uplift the living standards of the people.
Without involving members of the communities through the councillors, development projects tend to be concentrated in certain corners of a district. When development is skewed, there is a snowball effect of challenges. People tend to desert their areas and cram trading centres. That alone results in an increase in criminal activities as residents try to hunt for means of survival.
We, therefore, wish to encourage Mejn and Unicef to scale up sensitisation of local communities to own development processes. Nkhotakota District Council secretariat must wake up and face realities as per aspirations of Malawians.
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