The Justice and Peace of Karonga Diocese has trained Community Action Group (CAG) members on tracking down usage of development of funds.
The one day training for Community Action Group (CAG) members for the Citizens Action for Local Government Accountability (CALGA) project in the district was conducted on Friday.
According to JP Field Officer Vincent Bwinga, the training aimed at equipping CAG members with skills to systematically track down how public development resources are used from the sources to the beneficiary by among others looking at the allocation of resources received, utilization and results through a system code-named public expenditure tracking survey (pets).
Through this system, JP will empower the community to play a watchdog role and hold their duty bearers accountable in whatever business they do in handling all district development fund (DDF), constituency development fund (CDF) and local development fund (LDF) allocations.
“As you may recall, JP launched this project somewhere in July. The core objective is to empower the community to jealously safeguard public funds. So this training is part of it whereby these CAG members like vigilant messengers will take the message back home where they live and impart the same message to the community members,” Bwinga said.
Bwinga said the knowledge gap that exists between duty bearers and the community becomes a loophole whereby public funds are misused most of the times as they (duty bearers) take that ignorance as their advantage to siphon public resources through poor procurement practices, ghost projects, uncompleted and abandoned works where money goes down the drainage.
He, therefore, urged the trained CAG members to start demanding district development plans (DDPs), financial reports and other approved budget documents by the government from the district council to see what type of developmental activities have been lined up for their respective areas and monitor every project carried out in their respective areas by among other things checking invoices, receipts and delivery notes for goods supplied as one way of making sure that procurement of goods is done in a transparent way.
“We expect the project to be a yardstick in the forthcoming tripartite elections as the community will also decide who to vote for depending on how the current elected duty bearers have fared in terms of transparency and accountability for the past four years or so to avoid a repeat of mistakes in the next coming five years,” he said.
On her part, one of the trainees Catherine Sikana of group village Mbemba in the area of paramount chief Kyungu hailed the JP for the timely training. She said it was fruitful, as she did not know that community members have powers to demand vital information from duty bearers.
“We thank JP for the training; it has been an eye opener so to speak. We will carry the message back home, grow a thick skin and immediately start following up our hard earned money and see how it is used in various developments,” Sikana said.
Speaking on behalf of area development committee (ADC) members, chairperson for Lupembe ADC Vincent Kayuni said the training will help him in his day to day duty as an ADC chair in making sure that every coin is put to good use in all projects in the district.
“As an elected local leader myself, I expect to engage an extra gear on how I can provide checks and balances and I will go throttle out to make sure that the project is well coordinated between us the community members and the district council as we are partners and not enemies in development,” Kayuni said.
When asked to comment on the project, Karonga district council spokesperson Isaac Mkandawire welcomed the initiative and promised to give it the maximum support it deserves saying it will go a long way in making sure that the community and council are on the same page when it comes to accounting for public resources.