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Local NGOs under fire

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By Yohane Symon:

Local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have come under fire for duping Malawians through implementation of sub-standard and dubious projects across the country.

The government and Parliamentary Committee on International Relations have since called for proper legislation to ensure that the NGOs are accountable to Malawians.

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The committee’s chairperson, Alex Major, said Parliament is unsatisfied with the way some NGOs implement projects in Malawi, saying there is no value for money in most of the projects.

He made the sentiments in Mangochi District Monday in an interview on the sidelines of the 3rd NGO Accountability Conference.

Major said an assessment of the NGOs’ contribution shows that at least 90 percent of their work is “sub-standard”.

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In Malawi, there are about 680 NGOs that are registered with the NGO Board. It is believed that 1,000 NGOs are registered with Council for Non-Governmental Organisations in Malawi (Congoma).

However, information at the Ministry of Justice shows that there are 6,000 registered NGOs in the country.

Local and international NGOs spend about K1 trillion, which is 80 percent of Malawi’s annual national budget, on various projects across the country.

However, only 25 percent of the NGOs that are registered with the board presented their financial reports.

Failure by 75 percent of registered NGOs to present financial reports, according to Major, indicates that most NGOs in Malawi swindle money meant for assisting ordinary Malawians.

“Our assessment, sadly, discovered that local and international NGOs operating in Malawi have pathetic results. [The] NGOs are not doing their work to help Malawians. But NGOs must understand that the money they get is not meant for buying posh cars or holding demonstrations. The money belongs to Malawians,” Major said.

Major gave an example of Mzimba District where, in 2015/16, the government allocated K1.3 billion to its annual operations. But the NGOs in the district reportedly spent K11 billion in similar year.

“But when we visited the district, NGOs had nothing to show for the K11 billion. The situation was similar in Chikwawa, Nsanje and other districts we visited. We want the NGO Board to start enforcing accountability among the NGOs,” he said.

Minister of Gender, Children and Social Welfare, Jean Kalilani, shared Major’s concerns, saying the government finds it hard to work with NGOs which do not account for their operations.

“The money which NGOs use is meant for Malawians. The ideal situation is that we need the resources to move to the needy people so that we can improve their lives. But this is not happening and it becomes hard for us to work with NGOs when we don’t know what they are doing,” Kalilani said.

She said the government expects NGOs to start complying with the laws as a way of ensuring accountability on both sides.

But in his remarks, Congoma Chairperson, Steve Duwa, defended the NGOs, saying most of them are unhappy with the way the government and the board operate in the country.

He said the relationship between NGOs, the government and the board does not provide a condusive environment to motivate the NGOs to provide reports to the government.

“It is not that we are not willing to comply with the provision of reports. The issue is that the NGO Board has been highly politicised and it becomes difficult for NGOs to cooperate with it. The other thing is that the government needs to improve its language towards NGOs. We are not happy with the way the government talks to us. We are not children,” Duwa said.

He also accused members of NGOs of serving the interest of government instead of representing the interests of NGOs which are directly under the authority of the board.

The board’s Chairperson, Abigail Dzimadzi, said, this year, they expect to receive financial reports from about 65 percent of the NGOs registered under it.

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