The Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) has said it will engage parliamentary committees to lobby them to support its campaign to have the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) phased out.
The Catholic Church body says the move seeks to prevent fraud and abuse of public resources.
ECM and its stakeholders, including Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), Lilongwe Archdiocese, Karonga Diocese and Malawi Human Rights Resource Centre (MHRRC), have embarked on the campaign through Citizen Action in Local Government Accountability (Calga) project funded by the Irish Government.
ECM executive member George Chiusiwa said in an interview on Sunday that unlike the District Development Fund (DDF), CDF and other funds allocated at council level for development have not benefited people at grass roots level because resources are abused for personal gains.
He said: “For many years, it has been proved that CDF is not benefiting citizens since there is abuse of funds. We want government to maintain DDF because it has been proved it is the only fund that is benefiting people. So, we will have a continuous engagement with parliamentary committees to ensure we only have one fund which is of benefit to the people.”
However, Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee chairperson Ken Kandodo said such a move would be a mistake. He argued that DDF alone will do little in terms of development of councils.
He said: “It would be a big mistake to go that route because if you can do a survey, you will find that a majority of constituents are saying that CDF has benefited them. CDF has been assisting in development quite a lot. It is unfortunate that people are quick to condemn it.
“The goodness of CDF is that it is easy to track actual projects which are taking place because it is done at constituency level whereas DDF is for the whole district, which means that we can only have one or two big projects in the district.”
Kandodo said there is need for stakeholders to critically analyse challenges CDF is facing to find lasting solutions which can prevent resources from being abused.
National Local Government Finance Committee (NLGFC) executive director Alinafe Banda said the issue has been discussed for some time now.
“I have not been told anything on the matter, so how can I comment? We have been talking about these issues for long and there is an audit report which is revealing everything”, he said.
However, Banda hinted that he has been in contact with some members of Parliament on the matter for the past two weeks. According to him, the majority of MPs are against the idea that CDF should be scrapped.
Meanwhile, ECM and its stakeholders, including civil society organisations have started strategising on how they should go about the issue.
ECM, through CCJP-Lilongwe, is implementing the project in the Central Region districts of Dowa and Ntchisi. The project is also being implemented in Karonga and Chitipa districts while MHRRC is carrying out the project’s activities in Neno and Mwanza districts in the Southern Region.
CCJP national coordinator Boniface Chibwana said ECM will provide the platform for policy dialogue and national strategic engagement to ensure that resources that trickle to councils are not abused.
He said: “The project aims at changing the status quo by intensively and aggressively holding the district councils and national stakeholders on local government and development accountable for the management of local development resources.
“ECM is facilitating national level engagement through meetings on local development issues in Malawi based on the issues emanating from the district councils under this Calga project.”