Government, through the Ministry of Local Government, Unity and Culture has ordered the reconstitution of all Village Development Committees (VDCs) and Area Development Committees (ADCs) due to rampant corruption among the current members.
But the Malawi Local Government Association (Malga) has said it hopes that the decision is coming from credible evidence and will be writing the Ministry on the matter. Political pundits feel the decision is political.
chief executive officer Hardrod Mkandawire
In a directive to District Commissioners dated August 27, Secretary for Local Government James Chiusiwa said members need to be people of integrity, who are willing to serve Malawians without favouritism based on tribe, religion or politics.
He said: “The Ministry is aware that the VDCs and ADCs were constituted in 2019 following the general elections, in accordance with the Guidebook on the Local Government System in Malawi and that their reconstitution would have been in 2024 or earlier as the Government may, otherwise, direct.
“This directive is made due to rampant complaints and queries the Ministry has been receiving from across the country on the conduct of members of some members of VDCs and ADCs.
Chiusiwa said most of the complaints relate to corruption among members of these committees.
He added: “The complaints are on gross mismanagement of their functions and responsibilities and elements of corruption.
“There have been complaints, for example, regarding favouritism in the selection of beneficiaries of different government programs. In order to address these challenges, the Ministry has decided to reconstitute the committees.”
While welcoming the directive, Malawi Local Government Association (Malga) Chief Executive Officer Hardrod Mkandawire, has said they hope that the decision has been informed by credible evidence.
He said: “The allegations the Ministry has levelled against the ADCs and VDCs are very serious in nature, and, have a strong likelihood of disfranchising the citizenry from effective service and development delivery at the local level, which, is the hallmark of decentralisation.
“However, we are yet to learn and appreciate as regards the number of the ADCs and VDCs involved in the alleged malpractices to warrant a universal condemnation. We will be requesting the Ministry to share the details for us to appreciate.”
Mkandawire admitted that they had heard of isolated instances of corruption and favouritism being levelled against the ADCs by different stakeholders and actors.
“Going forward, we strongly urge the Government to strictly abide by the dictates and spirit of Decentralisation including the Local Government Act, which, envisages and vests powers the Ministry has just exercised, into the hands of Local Government Authorities.
“The district councils should be in a position to independently deal with such issues case by case as each district council deems fit. The Local Government Authorities should not be waiting for the Ministry to dictate when local structures should be constituted and or dissolved,” he added.
Political analyst Ernest Thindwa said the increasing volume of complaints against VDCs and ADCs can not be a justification for reconstituting membership of the same.
“Reconstituting membership will not address the claimed problems which are operational other than structural in nature.
“There are fundamental rules or guidelines which are attached to reconstituting such state organs which need to be respected if order and predictability necessary for the functioning of state institutions are to be achieved unless the claimed problems are emanating from structural
challenges,” he said.
Public expenditure tracking expert Mavuto Bamusi also said the decision should follow a clear, transparent and accountability process and should not come from the Ministry of Local Government alone.
He said: “It should be a product of a multi-stakeholder and multidisciplinary process involving all key actors including NGOs, development partners, CSOs, community leaders, local political
representatives Government officials, and chiefs.
“The directive smells of politics as a politically motivated move to reposition ADCs and VDCs in line with the interests of the ruling political parties. This is in view of the fast-approaching 2025 elections.”
Bamusi said the government may run the risk of replacing ADC and VDC members with individuals who are supporters and sympathisers of the ruling party.
“ADCs and VDCs are platforms for advancing development, and are crucial for deepening democratic accountability, and should therefore not be politicised through this directive,” he added.
The VDC is made of representatives from a village or group of villages. The committee facilitates planning and development at the community level.
On the other hand, an ADC represents all VDCs in a Traditional Authority (TA) area and its functions include setting priorities and identifying and preparing project proposals.
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