Committee gives in to councils on K4bn project

Committee gives in to councils on K4bn project

The stand-off between National Local Government Finance Committee (NLGFC) and councils over the K4 billion fund to rehabilitate health centres in seven districts has been resolved with the committee promising to let councils manage projects.

The councils protested  NLGFC’s decision to call for tenders for this project, saying it is unlawful and a blow to fiscal decentralisation. Through the Malawi Local Government Association (Malga),  the councils threatened to take legal action if the committee insisted on implementing the project.

Mkandawire: Direction is important

But during a closed door meeting at Malawi Sun Hotel in Blantyre on Sunday, convened by the Ministry of Local Government, the two parties reached a compromise which give councils some control over the project.

Ministry of Local Government spokesperson Anjoya Mwanza yesterday confirmed that the ministry organised the meeting and stressed that from the next financial year councils will be fully in charge of resources for this project.

NLGFC executive director Kondwani Santhe confirmed that the meeting took place.

He said following the meeting, the project will continue as planned with the budget holder being the NLGFC due to time factor, but each beneficiary council evaluating the bids through the committee. The councils will also receive administration funds for the project.

Santhe said: “In fact, this project has been idle for almost four years. We had to make an effort to push for release of these funds to have the project implemented. We called for bids because we wanted to move with speed but ultimately councils are the implementers.”

The Ministry of Local Government, according to our sources at the meeting, also committed to facilitate finalisation of assets ownership transfer to the councils as the title ownership of these health centres is under Ministry of Health. 

The two sides also agreed that   that NLGFC should not be implementing development projects on behalf of the local authorities and that health facilities rehabilitation funds would have to be devolved to the local authorities.

Malga executive director Hadrod Mkandawire described the outcome as a win-win scenario.

He said: “We wrote a letter to the ministry asking for direction and we are still waiting for that response. It will be important to get this direction to avoid the same thing happening again.”

Beneficiary councils  are  Balaka, Chikwawa, Chitipa, Dowa, Kasungu, Likoma and M’Mbelwa in Mzimba.

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