BLANTYRE-(MaraviPost)—Minister of Local Government, Lingson Belekanyama, has expressed optimism that the abuse of funds and other resources in local councils will be a thing of the past if the a law is developed to give the national local government finance committee at parliament powers to impose punishments on culprits found abusing the funds in the councils.
Speaking to Zodiak during Sun rise Malawi on Tuesday, Belekanyama has decried the absence of legal instruments to bring sanity on usage of development funds in local councils which has over the years impacted on the development projects in the country’s districts.
“What we mean is this finance local government committee is mandated by the constitution but has got limitations because the same constitution has mandated finance management committee to which is an act. That act, the problem that we have is that, it cannot be used in local government finance committee.
“ So what is supposed to be done is to have a legislation which is going to incorporate the activities and implement the functions of this local government committee. Without backing instruments then it is a committee that cannot punish those who have swindled money,” said Belekanyama.
He further disclosed that he has agreed with the executive director to expedite the legal instruments in order for the local government finance committee to operate properly by punishing those swindling government money and those underperforming.
The Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency (CSAT) director Willie Kambwandira concurred with the minister and believes that stiffer punishments on those found abusing public resources would help to end the vice.
“It is indeed sad that councils continue to lose money meant for various projects in the districts. Partly, this is because of the weaknesses when it comes public finance management systems. The law you are talking about, the Public Finance Management Act 2003; the law is there but the law is very weak.
“If you look at the public finance management Act, it just gives a lot of power to individuals; these are minister of finance, secretary to the treasury and few controlling officers particularly the DCS but is doesn’t give power to Malawians to hold those in power accountable,” said Kambwandira.
He added: “And again, if you look at the law, it doesn’t stipulate stiffer penalties for those who are found violating the law. So it has a lot of loopholes and maybe as an organization that champions transparency and accountability we have been pushing parliament to make sure that this law is amended so that it gives a lot of power to citizens who are the custodians of the public pulse so that they are able to hold those in power accountable. And it should also stipulate stiffer penalties for those who are found violating the law.”
There have been reports of rampant corruption and abuse of resources in local councils since the country reverted to multiparty democracy in 1994.