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Covid-19 paralyses councils

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Local councils, through Malawi Local Government Association (Malga), are asking the government for a bailout apparently because they can no longer cope with the operation pressure they are facing due to drops in revenue collection necessitated by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Malga president, WildNdipo, Wednesday told journalists in Lilongwe that  councils are hit hard and are failing to implement their operations, including paying salaries and wages, as they can no longer generate revenue due to low economic activities. “T he threat of the Covid-19 pandemic has made some councils to divert some of their local revenue to respond to the problem, especially conducting awareness campaigns and purchasing sanitation materials for public places such as markets.

“Most urban councils rely on city rates which contribute 70 percent of their revenue but their council officers have suspended door-to-door visits,” Ndipo said.

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Mayor for Mzuzu City Bright Nyasulu said, for instance, the council was previously collecting revenue up to K3 million a day but in the wake of Covid-19, the council can only collect around K750,000.

District Commissioner for Chiradzulu Reinghad Chavula said most councils have received an average of K30 million for Covid-19 management but the support has to be extended, hence calling for assistance from the government and other stakeholders.

“Revenue collection had declined by 50 percent and it means that 50 percent of the services will also not be provided,” he said. In an earlier interview, Salima District Council spokesperson, Grace Kapatuka, said the council’s direct employees have gone for two months without receiving salaries due to lack of funds.

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“Covid-19 has worsened our situation because we were already struggling to collect enough revenue as of December last year. At the moment, we owe our employees about four months salaries of which two of them are from last year,” Kapatuka said.

The situation is the similar with Mangochi District and Town Councils, and Balaka District Council which needs K7 million to pay workers. Ministry of Local government and Rural Development spokesperson, Muhlabase Mughogho, said the ministry has engaged Treasury and made a request of K1.8 billion to be dispersed in the councils that are also central in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, cases of the disease in Malawi have risen to 43 after two more were recorded in Thyolo and Blantyre.

Minister of Health Jappie Mhango, who announced the new cases, said their tests were conducted at College of Medicine in Blantyre and National Health Reference Laboratory in Lilongwe. Mhango said the two cases are a 41-year-old man, a truck driver who stays in Lilongwe’s Area 23 while the other is a 38-year-old man from Bvumbwe, Thyolo. The truck driver had travelled to Mozambique while the Bvumbwe resident had travelled to Tanzania.

“Health workers are tracing all the contacts of the two cases so that they can be followed up and tested for the virus,” Mhango said.

Of the 43 cases the country has registered, nine have recovered, three have died and 31, who are reportedly clinically stable, are still under management by the health system.

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