Local councils have pleaded with legislators to use the 2023/24 Mid-Year Budget Review Meeting to push for additional resources and implore Capital Hill to release funding to councils on time to avoid compromising service delivery.
Through Malawi Local Government Association (Malga) and the Council Managers’ Network (Magnet), the councils said delays in releasing funding are affecting their plans and service delivery.
Malga executive director Hadrod Mkandawire in an interview on Monday said low funding is paralysing the cash-strapped councils further, yet there have been several government orders requiring more funding.
He said: “One such order relates to expenses to cater for the wellness of traditional authorities when they fall ill. The order means councils will be incurring additional expenses.
“Of course, regardless of how minimal such resources are, but still its expenditure and, as such, Parliament has to consider this.
“The ministry [of Local Government] also issued another order that councils should reconstitute area development committees [ADCs] and village development committees [VDCs], meaning, they will have to incur extra expenses on travelling and logistics to effectively reconstitute these committees.”
Mkandawire also said a number of districts have exhausted their drugs budget, which means they will not be able to effectively provide health care.
Magnet chairperson Rodney Simwaka, who is also Mzimba district commissioner, said delays in funding affect implementation of plans.
He said: “You plan what to do and in what month, so when funding does not come, that is affected. Taking from experience from last year when funding was delayed, but at the end of the year, all money was given.
“The challenge is that you may not have done things according to your plan.”
Simwaka hoped that Parliament would not tamper with the vote for local authorities by cutting expenditure, fearing that such a move would compromise service delivery.
Ministry of Local Government Principal Secretary James Chiusiwa referred the matter to National Local Governance Finance Committee executive director Kondwani Santhe, saying: “It is important for you to first contact the ones who are in constant contact with the Treasury on these issues.”
But Santhe could not be reached for comment. However, the committee’s director of finance Linda Kapanda is on record as having told The Nation that funding for councils for September 2023 had been released.
Parliament approved K108.3 billion for councils for the 12-month period ending in March 2024, but over half-way into the fiscal year, Treasury has disbursed K488.1 billion to local councils. Out of the amount, K379.2 billion is for personal emoluments, K60.4 billion for development projects and K48.4 billion is for other recurrent transactions.