CSOs challenged to promote democratic governance in local councils
Willard Mwambo, one of the participants, said the capacity-building workshop was timely, as it would allow them to gain skills and knowledge for engaging government officials.
Malawi: The Governance to Enable Service Delivery (GESD) Project has identified insufficient funding for development projects, insufficient qualified and capable personnel, weak financial accountability and controls, an ineffective system of oversight and intergovernmental accountability, and fragmented planning processes as major constraints to the democratisation process in local councils, writes Watipaso Mzungu.
Since then, GESD Project Team Leader Gray Kalindekafe has challenged civil society organisations (CSOs) to play an active role in deepening democratic local governance and creating a conducive national context characterised by political pluralism, decentralisation policy, and local government capacity and resources.
Kalindekafe spoke at Liwonde in Machinga on Wednesday when he opened a two-and-a-half-day capacity building for CSOs on Local Authority Performance Assessment (LAPA), citizen-led project monitoring, advocacy and citizen advocacy engagement for effective local government accountability in Malawi.
He noticed a schism between the government and the citizens, with people going through the motions of meetings, participation, and voting but not feeling like they were a part of it.
"Accountability remains an empty shell in that situation unless that connection can be built and strengthened." "As a result, (re)establishing connections between the state and citizens is at the heart of our interventions," he explained.
Kalindekafe, who also serves as the Acting Executive Director of the National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) Public Trust, emphasised the importance of a proactive civil society that serves as the vanguard of decentralisation, democratisation, and accountability at the national and local levels in bringing about transformative change at the grassroots level.
He also called for increased collaboration between CSOs and the government in Malawi to achieve a more dynamic, efficient, and effective drug policy and action plan development and implementation.
"We must move beyond the simplistic government-civil society dichotomy, in which CSOs are viewed as holding government accountable on behalf of citizens and begin developing accountability relations from a systems perspective. Our interventions must address issues at multiple levels, i.e., at the local and national levels concurrently and interdependently, using informal networks at various levels ranging from the local councillor to the President," he said.
Willard Mwambo, one of the participants, said the capacity-building workshop was timely, as it would allow them to gain skills and knowledge for engaging government officials on how to improve service delivery to citizens.
GESD is a five-year World Bank-funded project that aims to address the aforementioned constraints by improving local governments' institutional performance, responsiveness to citizens, and resource management for service delivery.
The project focuses on the institutional strengthening of councils in order to improve resource management for responsive service delivery.