An expert in project management has urged the government to quickly resolve bottlenecks hampering quicker absorption of donor- funded projects arguing the delay in executing projects has got several knock-on effects on the economy and society at large.
The sentiments follow reports that despite donors committing resources, Government bureaucracies in project implementation units (PIUs) is contributing to slow absorption.
An expert in project management and infrastructure development Washington Chimuzu in a written response said the country has no luxury of time at this moment when Malawians are yearning for various life-changing developments to be initiated.
He said: “For one, it negatively affects efforts aimed at closing the infrastructure gap which would otherwise create value for businesses and society to benefit via direct and indirect job creation, improved road network or reduced cost of transportation, access to quality education and healthcare, among others. Inevitably, this affects Malawi’s capacity to produce goods and services at competitive prices”.
As a way forward, Chimuzu said the country needs to firstly understand factors and root causes behind the inefficiencies, then act with a sense of urgency to develop the capacity and incentives to support and sustain a turnaround in the delivery of projects.
In a written response, Secretary to Treasury MacDonald Mafuta Mwale acknowledged the problems about the PIUs’ implementation roadblocks but said something was being done to make headway.
He said there has been slow absorption on financial commitments from development partners such as the World Bank, European Union, African Development Bank and others due to some inefficiencies.
Mwale said: “Some projects are spanning over five years, others six years. This year alone, the donor commitment is around $340 million.
“For now, we are engaging the concerned Ministries, Departments and Agencies, to hear their constraints so I don’t want to name and shame them yet”.
In an interview, the new Secretary to the President and Cabinet (SPC) Colleen Zamba, who was previously head of the Presidential Delivery Unit (PDU) said delays in project implementation are some of the issues being dealt with through the PDU.
She said: “Actually we have a continued focus on delivery lab in areas such as health, agriculture, and energy because in those sectors there are a lot of donor monies and projects and the movement has not been satisfactory.
“So we have even said we are giving them templates where to complete and from there we start analysis and implementation, to set up a program to ensure we fast-track the delivery”.
Zamba said through the PDU, they have established targets and the things government wants to achieve, that must be adhered to.
In a written response, Associate professor of economics at the Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences (Mubas) Betchani Tchereni described the situation on slow absorption of donor-funded projects as really frustrating.
He said: “It seems we need to be exorcised of the spirit of procrastination as Malawians. We cannot allow such to be happening in the 21st century. We need government to hold to account the controlling officers to establish the various PIUs”.
There have been delays in implementation of projects in the country despite donors providing resources and the classic example is the M1 road which is in dilapidated state despite donors committing resources for rehabilitation.
Weeks ago, Minister of Finance Sosten Gwengwe admitted that slow absorption was a major issue but partly attributed the problem to donors’ strenuous procurement processes, apart from local bureaucratic tendencies.