Knowledge to the people! Budget Transparency and Accountability for Local Councils in Malawi
by Mayamiko Chokhotho (Citizens for Justice)
In pursuit of good governance structures in Malawi through the strengthening of Public Financial Management, Citizens for Justice (CFJ) in collaboration with the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) – Governance department with financial support from Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) – Under the strengthening Public Financial and Economic Management in Malawi Department (PFEM), is implementing the Budget and Expenditure Transparency Project Phase II (BET II) in nine districts in Malawi.
The project is supported by a Technical Working Group (TWG) with members drawn from the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD), the National Audit Office (NAO), the National Local Government Finance Committee (NLGFC) and the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development. The project has an implementation period of six months beginning the month of March, 2016 to September, 2016, but an extension was granted till February 2017. The first phase commenced in 2015. Beyond the BET II project cycle, it is envisioned that communities will continue to demand budget expenditure and accountability and therefore the project was primarily formulated to share knowledge and create financial management responsiveness mechanisms from duty bearers.
The BET II project implementation was apportioned into two cycles namely; training workshops conducted in all the nine pilot districts that have already been carried out followed with action planning workshops that will build up from the first exercise having identified the issues to be addressed by the councils through the developed action plans.
A highlight summary of the few general issues that were extracted from at most all councils include;
- Limited knowledge on relevant regulatory frameworks
- Low revenue generation
- Outdated district development plans
- Slow and partial devolution
- Lack of transparency in the procurement of drugs and teaching materials
These are some of the challenges that hinder the progress of most councils to develop and bring sanity in their districts and therefore need to be addressed. The BET II project created a platform for conversation during the trainings by empowering those trained to ensure fair, responsive and inclusive development outcomes as they all influence in budget and expenditure decisions and priorities. Furthermore, we do realise that the project cannot entirely eliminate all challenges and problems affecting the performance of councils operations.
The BET II project first exercise on knowledge impartation through trainings conducted received greater feedback from one of the participants (Nkhatabay district council) and lives as a testimony to walk with,
Received the attached doc with gratitude. It has formed part of my daily reference book as a councillor as I go about doing my work. I like the fact that I have the info online. This has boosted my confidence. As Nkhatabay district council things are slowly changing for the better. We are busy with service committee meetings in preparation for full council. This time around we demanded that all committees should meet and I’m happy to report that this has been done including HR and health committees has met after a very long time. Keep up the good works and we look forward to the next training and I’m sure my fellow councillors feel the same way too. Best regards to the whole team – Beauty Banda (NB-South East, Sanga Ward)
The BET II project incorporates strategies to improve effectiveness and efficiency of Public Financial Management in local councils by making sure that it conducts monitoring and feedback meetings, which will provide an assessment on progress, challenges identification and what correct actions to undertake having developed the Action plans in the upcoming exercise of the project. The action planning activity for all the nine districts is expected to be completed by end month of January, 2017. CFJ and OPC (Governance department) hope to promote an open government and democracy at local levels through transformed attitudes, principles and power relations and to empower those trained to influence budget and expenditure priorities and decisions.
 Northern region: Chitipa, Karonga & Nkhatabay. Central region: Mchinji, Kasungu & Nkhotakota. Southern region: Chikwawa, Blantyre & Balaka.