Councilors in the country want Parliament to quickly table and enact the amended Local Government Act to make decentralization stronger.
The councilors claim that some of the clauses in the 1998 Act do not reflect what is on the ground making it difficult for them to effectively execute their duties.
Speaking in Blantyre on Monday during a capacity building meeting organised by the Women Legal Resources Centre (Wolrec) under the Capacity Building and Transparency in Local Government Project, the councilors spoke in agreement that among others they do not want members of Parliament (MPs) to continue voting at council level.
They argued that stripping MPs of voting power in the council committee so that they are there only as ex-officio members will stop MPs from dictating development projects carried out using District Development Fund (DDF) and Local Development Fund (LDF).
Mwanza District Council chairperson Godfrey Zamaheya said the amended Act will ensure equal distribution of resources at council level, transparency and full implementation of the decentralization process.
“Taking off voting power from MPs in the council committee and allowing them to only act as ex-official members will ensure smooth running of development projects and reduce political interference,” argued Zamaheya.
Echoing Zamaheya’s sentiments, Amos Bakili chairperson for Thyolo District Council said councilors in almost all councils face similar challenges which have been long outstanding due to the delay in tabling and enacting the amended Act.
The councilors also cited delay in implementation of projects due to understaffing at council secretariat, lack of transparency with some councilors arguing that they are just being used as rubber stamps to pass budgets as it is difficult to trace how the funds are being utilized.
Said Bakili: “Almost all councils face these challenges of poor funding where there is a challenge in terms of demand versus resources due to funding ceiling, poor communication from the secretariat, too much political interference on projects and lack of commitment by council secretariat to collect enough revenue to beef up the budgets.”
Programme manager for Wolrec, Loma Mtema said the meeting was aimed at bringing together the councilors so that they share ideas and learn from each other.
She said: “We want to prepare them as we are going towards budget formulation to enable them understand and follow the budget. We have also invited the Anti- Corruption Bureau to share skills on expenditure tracking.”
Susan Dalgety from Active learning Centre –Scotland, described councilors as an essential component of development for they work close to the people.
Dalgety, a former councilor in the UK, said the meeting was also aimed at motivating, supporting and helping the councilors plan citizen engagement for the next months and how to utilize funding at the council level in the coming months.
The three days meeting attracted close to 50 councilors from the Southern Region, a similar one also took place in Lilongwe last week.
Wolrec and Active Learning Centre have been implementing the project with funding from the Royal Norwegian Embassy since 2014.
Since the coming back of councilors in 2014, the Local Government Act has gone through several amendments. The 1998 Act first went through amendments in 2010.