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Councils miss out on K17 billion Covid funds

Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda

Government cannot give a clear account of the K17 billion which President Lazarus Chakwera sanctioned Treasury to release for the fight of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Malawi News has established that local councils did not receive any funding for their Covid-19 activities from the K17 billion, a development which the Malawi Local Government Association (Malga) and other stakeholders have described as unfortunate.

Six months ago money from the K17 billion basket was recalled from clusters and councils following revelations of abuse of the K6.2 billion Covid funds early this year, which saw the arrest and firing of some senior government officials.

Government spokesperson Gospel Kazako said in an interview a fortnight ago that government has a deficit of about K800 million to meet the councils’ budget; he however did not disclose the total budget which councils submitted.

However, on June 20, 2021 Kazako said that after scrutiny and review of the resubmitted plans, the security cluster and six councils, namely: Luchenza, Mchinji, Kasungu District, Kasungu Municipality, Lilongwe City and Nkhata Bay were cleared and ready for funding.

But Mayor for Luchenza Municipality Henderson Supuni said in an interview during the week that they are yet to receive the funds, so did Nkhata Bay council’s spokesperson Patrick Botha.

Botha and Supuni bemoaned that the Covid-19 interventions are facing challenges due to resource constraints.

“We just got communication that we have been cleared, we have been following up but all in futility. As I speak, most activities have come to a halt, we are even unable to buy bottles of hand sanitizers for offices. When we follow up with Dodma we are always referred to the taskforce,” Supuni said.

Chairperson for the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 who is also Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda indicated in an interview that they have since changed the approach.

Chiponda said chunks of money were given to clusters and directed to specific activities targeting the whole country and not specific councils as anticipated.

“I can’t remember exact figures but we gave K6 billion to Education and also K6 billion to Ministry of Health, we also committed K1 billion to production of masks for distribution in villages and also K1.5billion towards vaccination exercise and drug procurement respectively.

“Council budgets had to be reviewed because some of their budget items we had already done them. We also needed to prioritise things,” Chiponda said.

According to Chiponda, they are now directing efforts to scale up vaccination uptake, adding they will soon be publishing details on how the money has been used.

The returned money was reportedly deposited in the account of the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma).

Our source at Dodma, who opted for anonymity, said earlier this month that all the money was disbursed to the taskforce, such that the department’s account has no Covid money at the moment.

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