By Rex Chikoko
The government has suspended the Decent and Affordable Housing Subsidy Programme (DAHSP)—a flagship programme of the erstwhile governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) — pending investigations on allegations of abuses that dogged implementation of the programme, Ministry of Lands has disclosed.
The DAHSP, commonly known as malata subsidy, was meant to benefit poor people by giving them material loans that would enable them to acquire a maximum of 30 corrugated iron sheets of 29/30 gauge of 10 feet each and a maximum of 30 bags of cement of 50 kilogrammes each and other related building materials.
The beneficiary is required to contribute 50 percent to the total cost. After running for six years, Lands Minister Kezzie Msukwa disclosed that the Tonse administration did not budget for the programme and that it had been suspended pending investigations on alleged abuse.
The minister also said the ministry would review the programme as it had been noted that there were no adequate funds for implementation of the initiative because the majority of beneficiaries did not repay loans.
“We will not have the programme this year but that does not mean we have abandoned it. We are reviewing it to see whether it is worth continuing,” Msukwa said.
The minister said some of the abuses that the programme suffered under DPP tutelage were that some party loyalists got money for the purchase of materials meant for distribution to programme beneficiaries but did not supply materials and, in some cases, some suppliers supplied substandard materials.
“We noted that some supplier charged for 28 gauge iron sheets when they supplied 32 gauge iron sheets. This was also happening with cement. We are reviewing the programme and, if we find it necessary, we would bring it back next year,” he said.
Officials from the Ministry of Lands could not provide latest data on how much was spent on the programme since its launch in 2014, how many people had benefitted, how much had been recollected and how much was outstanding from the loans. By 2017, only 11,022 houses had been completed, 18,877 families had accessed the loans and 7,855 houses were incomplete for various reasons, one of which being beneficiaries’ failure to get all the materials as planned.
This was against the 68 households per constituency in a year target, of which 63 would be on subsidy (loans) and five would be on grants (built freely for the poorest of the poor).
In the first five years of the programme, a total of 66,000 houses could have been built. The government spent K14.1 billion in the first three years of implementing the programme.
Meanwhile, Chancellor College lecturer in the Department of Political and Administrative Studies and Afrobarometer Director of Survey Boniface Dulani has said Malawians would not mourn the passing of the malata subsidy programme because the programme was “highly” political and the number of recipients was low.
“The pressing matters among Malawians are food, economy, health and unemployment. The number of beneficiaries of the malata subsidy programme is very low and I don’t think Malawians would mourn it,” Dulani said.
He, however, said housing was a big issue in this country—especially in high-density urban areas— and the government needed to address challenges associated with it.
National Planning Commission of Malawi Director General Thomas Munthali said the continuity or discontinuity of a project should be based on its assessed impacts, given that resources are limited and there are so many competing needs.
“Any long-term initiative should be based on its socio-economic potential and should get assessed for its impacts along the way. This way, we will never look at curtailing or sustenance of certain projects as politically inclined but will consider the merit of its long-term socio-economic viability,” Munthali said.
Former president Peter Mutharika officially inaugurated the DAHSP programme at Msampha 1 Village in Lilongwe Rural area on December 18 2014, when 11 houses were built in the pilot phase.