MPs demand 178 percent hike in CDF
As Malawi government is struggling to balance its expenditure plan against the country’s resource envelope for the next financial year, Members of Parliament (MPs) are craftily but steadily pushing for a hike in the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) from the current K9 million to K25 million.
The proposed increase represents 178 percent of the current CDF and if taken on board, it will see Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe allocating a total of K4.8 billion for the fund.
But Jephter Mwanza who is Programmes Manager of Kalondolondo, a venture that tracks the implementation of public projects, has strongly spoken against the proposal, arguing that CDF is one of the most abused funds.
In his Tuesday’s contribution on the proposed national budget presented by Gondwe last month, MP for Nkhotakota South East Makowa Mwale said K25 million or more for CDF would enable the lawmakers to undertake some crucial development activities in their constituencies.
Other legislators have been sneakily making the same proposal amid muffled support from their counterparts, a development that compelled Minister of Local Government Tarsizio Gowelo to warn on the consequences of the proposal.
In an interview on Friday, Mwanza said there are numerous irregularities in implementation mechanisms on CDF, such that any increase to the current fund cannot be in the interest of Malawians.
“MPs need to be responsible first before they demand that CDF should be increased. They have too much power over the fund and easily abuse it, yet the so many audit queries that arise are handled by the councils,” said Mwanza.
He further queried the relevance of the fund, arguing that its very introduction was very political in nature as it was simply aimed at appeasing MPs during a time when former president Bingu wa Mutharika had a minority of representation in the National Assembly.
“There is need for proper audit of all projects for the past seven years so that we can see the structures that the fund has come up with so far. Otherwise, any proposed increase must never succeed,” said Mwanza.
In his response to MP for Dedza Central East Bonnex Malunga who also made the proposal that CDF should be increased to K25 million, Gowelo said his ministry would consider the suggestion.
“The point has been noted,” said the Local Government Minister before adding: “I have noted that many Honourable Members have raised this suggestion… But we all have to be mindful of the [national] cake that we have.”
In an exclusive interview with The Daily Times, Gondwe admitted that while MPs want the CDF allocation to be increased, a lot of Malawians actually want it reduced.
“In any case, the Minister of Local Government has been saying we have increased resources going to the district councils considerably, which means if we were to increase the resources for CDF, we will have to reduce the amount going to the District Councils to give it to the MPs,” said Gondwe.
While leaving it to the public to decide whether the proposed percentage is realistic, the Finance Minister admitted that it is on the higher side.
If the MPs demand passes, local councils would lose K30 billion which will have to be diverted to the CDF allocation. This is the same amount from which different development projects that the lawmakers ask government to undertake are funded from in view of decentralisation of resource management.
The Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament also recently proposed a hike on CDF from the K9 million to K15 million and it remains to be seen how Gondwe will handle the two proposals as he makes adjustments to different allocations.
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