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Govt yet to distribute K17bn Covid funds

By Mandy Pondani

Government has not yet started disbursing the K17 billion Covid money to clusters, district and city councils, The Sunday Times has established.

Following revelations that part of the K6.2 billion Covid funds was abused, Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) directed councils that had already benefited from the K17 billion chunk to return the money.

Government spokesperson Gospel Kazako said on friday that after scrutiny of the expenditure plans which councils and clusters were asked to submit, only six out of the 33 councils have qualified and are ready for funding.

“All plans were reviewed and recommendations were made for revisions… Education and health plans are funded and being implemented. Security cluster plans and six council plans have been finalised and now ready for funding. Reminders were sent to remaining councils and clusters,” Kazako said.

The six councils according to Kazako are Luchenza, Mchinji, Kasungu District, Kasungu Municipality, Lilongwe City and Nkhata Bay.

Kazako said all government is doing is to enhance financial management systems, adding that government has opted for quarterly, rather than lump sum, funding.

He said as at March 31, 2021, Dodma was still holding about K14.6 billion, out of the K17 billion which was released following the President’s directive.

The delay is slowly causing panic among stakeholders who fear that they may be unable to contain the third wave of the coronavirus due to resource constraints.

Executive Director for the Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) George Jobe warned that the delay might lead to plunder of the resources which government is purportedly trying to prevent.

“Delay is too much. Government should avoid a situation in which money will be disbursed when numbers for Covid-19 cases are high and people start to take advantage to flout procurement procedures because it’s an emergency,” Jobe said.

Chief Executive Officer for Malawi Local Government Association (Malga) Hadrod Mkandawire said it is unfair for the Central Government to hold on to the funds under the pretext of financial management gaps in councils after 99 percent of them were exonerated by the recent K6.2 billion Covid funds audit report.

“We do not want councils to be blamed for failing to respond accordingly just because Central Government is clinging to resources,” Mkandawire said.

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