Malawi Government will this month roll out a five-year K76 billion Governance to Enable Service Delivery (Gesd) project that seeks to address challenges faced by councils.
The World Bank-funded Gesd, is a successor of the Local Government Accountability and Performance project which phased out last month.
In a telephone interview on Tuesday, project coordinator Charles Chunga said the main objective is to strengthen local authorities’ institutional performance, responsiveness to citizens and management of resources for service delivery.
He said the councils will receive funds in the ranges of K100 million to K500 million to help improve service delivery.
He said: “As of now I cannot say the exact date when the authorities will start receiving the funds but it will be within this month [of August]. There are some preparations that have to be done which the local authorities have to go through and that is what is happening now.”
According to a project brief by the World Bank, it is implemented under the performance-based grant (PBG) which means funding to the local authorities will be determined by their performance.
The local authorities will have to undergo scanning through the Local Authority Performance Assessment (Lapa)—a process for assessing local authorities’ performance to determine if they are ready to access the funds.
Reads the project brief: “The higher-level goals of the project will be improving of service delivery in terms of capital investments and facility level management in rural areas where most of the poor citizens reside and face significant challenges in equitably accessing basic services.”
The 2019/20 Lapa report released in May this year identified Balaka as the best performing local authority, having scored 67 percent while Chiradzulu was the worst performer scoring 21 percent.
The report also exposed glaring finance management gaps in all the 28 local authorities ranging from inefficiencies in development planning, budgeting and auditing to contract management and implementation.
In a separate telephone interview yesterday, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace national coordinator Boniface Chibwana said the project will help ease challenges councils have been facing.
“If you look at challenges councils have been facing, you will find that they are so enormous and we believe that this project will help bridge the gap and in turn improve service delivery,” he said.
Chibwana said they further believe that the project will capacitate the councils and enhance how they operate; hence, becoming more effective in encountering such as vacancy rate.
He said since the local authorities will be getting the funds based on their performance, it will motivate other non-performing local authorities to work towards doing better.
In May this year, economist Milward Tobias, who is also executive director of the Centre for Research and Consultancy, told The Nation in an interview that there has not been a corresponding investment in human resources in local councils.
At the official launch of the project in April this year, Vice-President Saulos Chilima warned local authorities not to relax if the project to be successful.
Chilima, who is also Minister of Economic Planning and Development and Public Sector Reforms, described the project as important as it will help address challenges in the decentralisation process.
The project is facilitated by the Ministry of Finance with the Ministry of Local Government and the National Local Government Finance Committee as lead implementers.
The project also aims to address development challenges relating to inadequate fiscal decentralisation policies, weak oversight financial management and resistance to accelerating decentralisation from line ministries which has led to fragmentation and incoherence in the devolution of functions and resources.
It also aims to address challenges in uneven and overlapping divisions of responsibility and functions between central and local government.