Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Malawi

Speech by the EU Ambassador to Malawi at the launch of Action Aid's study reports

Lilongwe, 27/09/2017 - 13:48, UNIQUE ID: 170927_6
Speeches of the Ambassador

From the perspective of the European Union, the role of the citizen and civil society in general is critically important for the development of any country. Only if final beneficiaries are involved in identifying how their needs shall be addressed, can their needs be truly met. All other attempts will only deliver second best options as they rely on assumptions on behalf of others

Mwaswera Bwanji (Good evening)

I am particularly pleased to be here tonight to address you on this very important topic.

From the perspective of the European Union, the role of the citizen and civil society in general is critically important for the development of any country.  Only if final beneficiaries are involved in identifying how their needs shall be addressed, can their needs be truly met. All other attempts will only deliver second best options as they rely on assumptions on behalf of others.

In particular in a context of scarce resources the involvement of citizens is important to ensure that public services and goods are delivered according to planning. In this process it should be the right of citizens, both as final beneficiaries but also as taxpayers, to request information and hold duty bearers to account for the use of public funds. Citizens are in a good position to effectively provide checks and balances at all levels - provided they have the capacity.

The Action Aid project is one of 5 projects we are currently funding with CSOs in Malawi to strengthen demand side accountability, for a total amount of € 2 million. (Allow me here to reassure the Minister that these projects are funded directly with resources from our Head Quarters that come on top of the bilateral envelope co-signed with the Government of Malawi).

For example under a project executed by MEJN various cases of mis-management of public funds have been brought to light. For the construction of a critical bridge to access hospitals and schools in Mulanje the supplier received about MKW 1.5 million to deliver building materials. Although documentation showed that all materials had been delivered, no progress could be seen on the ground and the bridge was still in a provisional state fabricated out of wood. This is just one example but it illustrates the importance that beneficiaries are involved and provide checks and balances.

Today Action Aid will present two interesting studies on citizen participation supported by the European Union. The studies provide insight into various aspects of community participation and accountability structures.  Of particular interest I found three main points:

  1. First, citizen participation in budgetary processes at district level is very low. If we believe that participation of citizens will lead to better service delivery and greater value for money, we should increase their involvement. This is an important element to increase domestic accountability.
  2. Secondly, the role of the media in holding duty bearers to account is increasingly important as part of domestic accountability. The media can play an effective role in disseminating information, initiating discussions and effectively amplifying the voices of those in the communities and Malawian society. The more the media will move from disseminating information to providing analysis of information, the greater the impact of the media will be. This will contribute to the empowerment of communities vis a vis the duty bearers.
  3.  Thirdly I would like to stress the importance of sound financial management at all levels including district level.  As the study stated, there are certain elements, particular regarding public procurement, which hamper the effective and efficient use of public resources.  Among them capacity challenges, but also at times undue political influence in procurement processes.  Just this weekend, the front page of the weekend Nation paper was referring to major mismanagement of local funds.  It has been reported that public funds allocated through Local, District and Constituency Development Funds have seen major abuse.  Sound financial management cannot solve all the problems, but the adherence to rules and regulations will go a long way to ensure that public funds will reach their intended purpose. And this is again, where the role of the citizens, civil society and media comes in. Public funds don’t belong to the Government, they do not belong to Parliament, and they don’t belong either to district officials. They have been provided by compliant taxpayers to allow the Government to exercise its duties, providing public services to all Malawians - the beneficiaries. Hence, it is the very same beneficiaries, who should have the means and the voice to ensure that resources intended to improve their livelihood achieve their purpose. 

At this stage I once again welcome the work done by Action Aid. I hope the presentations will be followed by vibrant discussions, resulting in actionable recommendations, which this project as well as others can take forward.

To conclude I am pleased to share with you the good news, that the European Union is committed to support Malawi in the area of Public Financial Management. We are currently identifying a new PFM support programme together with the Ministry of Finance, in which among others, procurement and domestic accountability will feature prominently.

I wish you a fruitful discussion.

Good evening to all.

Zikomo kwambiri (thank you)

 

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