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Councils fault budget on Constituency Development Fund

FOR REFORMS— Gwengwe

MKANDAWIRE—Local Government authorities remain in huge debt

The Malawi Local Government Association (Malga) has faulted the Central Government for claiming that Constituency Development Fund (CDF) is a catalyst for meaningful development in the country.

The development comes after, on Friday, Finance Minister Sosten Gwengwe indicated, in a statement presented to Parliament, that the CDF allocation in the 2022-23 National Budget would be pegged at K100 million, up from K40 million.

However, Malga Executive Director Hadrod Mkandawire has hit back at the Central Government for claiming that CDF is a vehicle for development, especially to those in rural areas.

Mkandawire told The Daily Times on Saturday that Gwengwe exaggerated the importance of CDF.

“Contrary to what the government wants Malawians to erroneously believe, it is clear from the Auditor General’s audit reports into accounts of local authorities, including the recent one, that CDF is subjected to abuse, fraud [in implementation of] projects quality challenges and [cases of] projects not aligned to district development and urban development plans [—all these challenges are] perpetrated by members of Parliament using their political muscle.

“On the other hand, the District Development Fund (DDF) and Infrastructure Development Fund (IDF) have been models of inclusive and transparent local development and, no wonder, the World Bank and other bilateral and multilateral development partners have adopted the DDF/IDF model as a means of funding local development,” he said.

Mkandawire challenged Gwengwe to provide proof that CDF was a catalyst for local development.

According to Mkandawire, the theme of the budget, which is ‘Accelerating Implementation Towards Wealth Creation, Job Creation and Food Security’, as well as the vision underpinning it were meaningless without meaningful fiscal devolution as key financial issues for the local authorities have been overlooked.

“We wonder how Malawi can become an inclusively wealthy, self-reliant and industrialised nation with the status of our Local Government authorities.

“The Local Government authorities remain in huge debt occasioned by slow fiscal devolution due to lack of political will despite the existence of enabling legal and policy frameworks to facilitate meaningful fiscal devolution. Despite our plea contained in our submission to the 2022-23 pre-budget consultation meetings, the bailout package has, once again, been overlooked,” Mkandawire said.

Responding to Mkandawire’s sentiments, Gwengwe said the Executive only presented the financial plan to Parliament, adding that it is the august House that passes the budget and not the finance minister.

Speaking when he presented the budget on Friday, Gwengwe noted that an honest reflection of previous budgets reveals that ORT [Other Recurrent Expenditure] tends to take up over 90 percent of the budget and that the meagre development budget hardly reaches the rural population.

“This House should try and honestly reflect on how much of the developmental budget benefits a Namageso ku Chideza ku Nambuma or indeed Abiti Mvoso kwa Nakunkhu kwa Senior Chief Nazombe ku Phalombe.

“In line with Section 13, read together with Section 30 of the Constitution, this budget will start addressing the development inequality the rural masses have suffered for so long. This budget will start introducing reforms to the administration of the Constituency Development Fund,” Gwengwe said.

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