The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace has called on all development governance actors especially in local councils to practice accountability and transparency in the management of local development and use of resources if the country is to develop.

This was put forward through the national social accountability summit on local development which the Commission organized at Riverside Hotel in the capital city, Lilongwe. This is because the Catholic governance arm has noted rampant misappropriation of development funds, lack of involvement of community members in planning and implementation of projects and hiding of information from the public or the media.

Mr. Boniface Chibwana, the CCPJ national coordinator said despite some achievements in Malawi’s decentralization, the country is not making meaningful and concrete attainments in scaling up local governance which is a requirement for  successful local development.

“Myriad challenges face the local government and local development system in this country. These include lack of access to information on local development management, abuse, theft and mismanagement of public resources, poor participation of citizens in development due to inadequate consultation, corruption in local councils and at central government level, suspicious and dubious local development projects under funding baskets like the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), politicization of development,  lack of adequate engagement between elected officials and citizens, frequent but politically motivated transfers of District Commissioners (DCs) and poor oversight and examination of local council funds,” said Chibwana.

He continued that Civil Society Organizations and non-state actors have been the voices of the poor but it’s time that people demand accountability from duty bearers for themselves and journalists, Civil Society Organizations, Faith Based Organizations and accountability bodies should empower the citizens so that accountability is driven through voices and actions of citizens themselves.

The summit was organized to discuss the state of operationalization of the Access to Information Act and scaling up of local governance in Malawi, the new wave of the Public Sector Reforms (PSR) Program in the local councils and its impact on improved local governance, management of Covid-19 response funds in local councils and citizen participation and the utilization of funds under the National Action Plan on Persons with Albinism, way forward on suspected abuse and mismanagement of Constituency Development Fund (CDF) money, progress and status of utilization of CDF Bursary Scheme at local council level among other things.

Various stakeholders especially from the media and community representatives expressed concerns over the culture of secrecy in local councils as information is not provided to them even if they ask for it. In some cases, citizens and key duty bearers are not even aware that particular local development initiatives exist in the country which is a fertile ground for corruption. All these are happening despite the fact that local development in Malawi is the centre of development as it directly connects with rural masses.