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Councils frown at national budget

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The Malawi Local Government Association (Malga) has scowled at the K1.990 trillion nine-month 2021/22 National budget presented by Finance Minister Felix Mlusu in Parliament on Friday which, among others, has overlooked the plea for Treasury to bailout councils.

In an interview Monday, Malga acting Executive Director Hadrod Mkandawire said local governments have once again lost out on the budget in terms of the minimum financial requirements.

Mkandawire said much as Malga appreciates the improved allocation for city roads construction, the overall development budget for local councils remains low.

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“It is also regrettable that our plea for a bailout package has also been overlooked,” Mkandawire said.

In his budget presentation, Mlusu called upon local governments entities to ensure prudent use of funding, especially development funds.

But Mkandawire wondered how this will be achieved when ward councillors continue to operate with mobility challenges as most of them cannot afford even a reconditioned vehicle.

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“Our request for duty free vehicles once every five years for ward councillors has not been considered. We are also surprised that our request for the Central Government to introduce chiefs administration budget has not been considered too,” Mkandawire said.

The Local Authorities Performance Assessment (Lapa) report for the 2019/2020 financial year exposed that most of the 28 district councils assessed did not perform well during the period under review.

The report, however, did not highlight the underlying causes for the poor performance.

But in a statement dated May 10 2021, Malga said it was regrettable that the Central Government wanted to look smarter on the under-performance of the assessed local councils by hiding its shortcomings in respect of fulfilling its obligations towards the local councils.

Malga argued that the Decentralisation Policy instructs the Central Government to transfer five percent of Net National Revenues that is, excluding grants to Local Councils, as General Resource Fund or Unconditional Grants.

Mlusu was not immediately available for comment Monday.

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