And an audit by the National Audit Office in the country’s 35 councils has revealed that members of Parliament abused K118 million in the 2016/2017 financial year but as MACDONALD THOM writes, the trend continued in the 2017/18. He focuses on a situation in Neno, where people are now angry, demanding answers to what is happening.
People of Ngwenyama 2 Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Symon in Neno District wanted their children to be fully prepared for primary education.
As such, they decided to mould bricks to use for constructing a Community Based Child-care Centre (CBCC).
Dalikesi Kondowe, from Kasamba in Group Village Headman Kasamba in T/A Symon says they decided to construct the CCBC in the village with the aim of improving education.
“Our plan was that children in the village should be going to the centre before starting primary education,” Kondowe says.
The project started in 2017 but up to now their dream is not being fulfilled. Through a local lobby group called Community Action Group (Cag), the villagers have discovered that although the construction is not being completed, the CCBC was actually allocated K667,448 under CDF.
But Malawi News understands the project only received 24 iron sheets and trusses. Neno District Council returns for CDF for the financial year ending June 30, 2018 shows that a number of projects were carried out in both Neno South and Neno North constituencies.
Some of the projects on the returns are the rehabilitation of two CCBCs in area of Traditional Authority Symon in the district. According to the returns, Mwanaalirenji CCBC was allocated a total of K403,200 while Ngwenyama 2 CBCC was allocated K677,488.
A document which Malawi News has seen shows that for Ngwenyama 2, the money was for construction materials. The supplier, Super Sakuwa, was given the money through Cheque No. 009602 on February 28, 2018.
For Mwanaalirenji CCBC, according to the returns, a contractor, identified as Richard Nyundo, on June 30, 2018, got the money for the project through Cheque No. 010767.
But when we visited the two centres, we found that the amounts indicated on the returns either were too much for the work actually done or nothing was completely done on the ground.
At Ngwenyama 2 CCBC for instance, it was found that apart from some few iron sheets on the roof of the building, the K677,488 indicated on the returns appeared to be too much for the work actually done.
As for Mwanaalirenji CCBC, there was literally nothing done on the project, although the K403,200 was released.
Both cases have put the council at loggerheads with the community, who are demanding answers on the development.
People, through Cag, are demanding answers from Neno District Council on what happened on the two projects. Kasamba Cag Chairperson, Kennedy Nkozomba, says they want all the money for the project to be accounted for.
“This project was initiated with the aim of making sure that children access education at an early stage. People moulded bricks. They constructed the structure but they failed to have iron sheets. They asked for resources under CDF to be used for roofing. We were promised that would be done. But with passage of time, it was discovered that the structure was on the verge of falling,” Nkozomba says.
He says when they followed the issue up, they discovered that all the money for the projects was already released.
“We went to the District Commissioner’s office to find out what happened. We were shocked to discover that according to records, the structure was completed, according to the 2017/2018 report on CDF use. We were very angry. The 24 iron sheets were bought from Super Sakuwa Limited, where a cheque of K667,448 was issued.
“We were asking: How much is each 32-gauge, eight feet iron sheet? We failed to get the answers. We wrote the DC about this. Recently we had a meeting at Zalewa, where the DC told us that he would investigate the issue,” he says.
He says after following up the issue Ngwenyama CCBC, they just saw trusses coming. He says although people were angry, such that they did not want the project to proceed, the people were accepted that the trusses should be used on the building. Now the building, though incomplete, has a roof.
“We want the money which remained after buying iron sheets and trusses to go back to CDF. We don’t think the two items they bought are worth K667,448,” Mkozomba says.
Filimon Widan who is Secretary for Village Development Committee (VDC) at Ngwenyama 2 says they are disappointed with what happened.
“We are not happy because we thought construction of this school would ease the challenges our children are experiencing,” he says.
Area Development Committee (ADC) chairperson, Margaret Nkhalamba says what is happening in the area is disappointing.
“At first, we did not know what was happening. But later we discovered that Mwanaalirenji CBCC was allocated funds under CDF. On paper, it shows that the project was completed but on the ground it is not. The same applies to Ngwenyama 2 CBCC,” Nkhalamba says.
By the time we went to press, Neno South MP, Mary Khembo had not been reached on her mobile phone.
But Neno District Commissioner, Rodrick Mateauma, said since he is new in the district, he has to find out how disbursements were made.
“I am just four months old in the district. Those issues have not been brought to me specifically. However, I have engaged my team so that we check how CDF issues were being handled in the past. Those two projects are for the 2017/2018 [financial year]. I am yet to get proper reports from project identification to where now the communities are claiming that there is nothing. What actually happened? Did they change where to implement the projects?” Mateauma said.
A report by the NAO, for the financial year ending June 30, 2017 has revealed that MPs abused K118 million. According to the report, payments were made to projects that did not exist.
The audit has shown that Zomba district and city councils, Dowa, Dedza, Machinga, M’bwelwa and Rumphi District councils were implicated in the abuse.
It highlights that in Dowa, CDF materials estimated at K22.5 million were purchased on paper but the auditors found no evidence that the materials were delivered to the project sites. The report also says that in Machinga the auditors.
The report, which Acting Auditor General, Thomas Makiwa submitted to Parliament in July 2018 has, among many recommendations, stated that there is need to find the cause of the recurring problems in councils.
Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, Alekeni Menyani, has said there is need to review the administration of CDF.
“This is a huge issue. As a committee we are devising a way forward. There is need to review the whole process of CDF. I cannot from the head just say this is the right thing to do. But we have a problem we need to address,” Menyani said.