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Malawi sits on $340 million

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Mafuta Mwale

Malawi has $340 million (approximately K345.4 billion) it would have been used to fund projects in the country locked up following protracted failure by the government’s project implementation units (PIUs).

This is what our sources say Secretary to the Treasury (ST), Macdonald Mafuta Mwale, told new Secretary to the President and Cabinet (SPC) Colleen Zamba during the Wednesday closed-door meeting between Zamba and principal secretaries (PSs).

In projects that are funded by donors in developing countries, PIUs are project offices that made special staffing and ring-fencing arrangements to implement projects more effectively.

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Sources who attended Wednesday’s closed-door meeting between the SPC and PSs told The Daily Times that Mafuta Mwale told Zamba that while Malawi is facing an acute shortage of forex, there are many PIUs which are sitting on enormous amounts of United States dollars.

The sources said, according to Mafuta Mwale, institutions such as the World Bank, African Development Bank and blocks such as the European Union and others have committed resources for various projects, which the country is failing to utilise due to inefficiencies in the PIUs.

When contacted Thursday, Mafuta Mwale confirmed that PIU inefficiencies are costing Malawi a lot.

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“It is true. Donors are financing a lot of projects, some for two, three, four or five years but you find, for one reason or another, progress is very slow. If we are implementing at the right pace, these projects can be supporting Malawi, in terms of forex availability.

“If all the donor projects Malawi is implementing can perform as per the agreed work plans, all the donors in total can disburse $340 million on budget [-related issues]. This figure can go as high as $500 million if we include off budget [funds],” Mafuta Mwale said.

The source quoted Zamba to have said inefficiencies in PIUs, which result in delayed implementation of projects, is what she had been encountering at the Presidential Delivery Unit.

She said, in some cases, it takes six months to one year just to form a PIU.

Centre for Research and Consultancy Director Milward Tobias said PIUS’ delays can be costly since most projects are funded by donors and their implementation brings in foreign exchange to the economy.

Tobias, however, faulted Mafuta Mwale for failing to crack the whip on sleeping PIUs.

“The Secretary to the Treasury is graded B, [meaning that he is] senior to most controlling officers who are graded C. The seniority is to give latitude to the ST to crack the whip on under-performing controlling officers which include those heading PIUs.

“For an ST to helplessly lament inefficiencies in PIUs, it is an admission of own incompetence to use his position properly,” Tobias said.

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