THE Alliance for Community Action (ACA) has proposed a suspension of the implementation of the recently launched Constituency Development Fund Guidelines until the law is amended to make them conform to it.
In a statement, Wednesday, ACA information and advocacy officer Andrew Banda stated that for CDF to be more effective, it required government to address contradictions between the Guidelines and the CDF Act urgently.
“The ACA notes that the Guidelines in their current form can still be used to lubricate patronage networks and satisfy the ambitions of political representatives and their networks. The one-size-fits-all procurement of 4×4 vehicles is a big concern for us. It is therefore the ACA’s considered view that for CDF to be more effective, it requires the government through the Ministry of Local government and Rural Development to address the contradictions between the Guidelines and CDF Act urgently. As the Act is the principal legal provision, we propose a suspension of implementing the Guidelines until the law is amended to make the Guidelines conform,” he stated.
Banda noted that while the CDF Guidelines included many progressive clauses, there were provisions which suggested a departure from the statutory provisions in the administration of the fund.
“The Alliance for Community Action (ACA) has studied the CDF Guidelines released by the Minister of Local Government and we wish to share our immediate observations. The ACA welcomes the release of the 2022 Constituency Development Fund (CDF) Guidelines by the Ministry of Local Government. CDF is designed as a valuable citizen-led tool for community-led development that deals with the issues that directly impact citizens in their local communities. It is for this reason that the ACA joined the rest of the country in celebrating the increased CDF allocation from K1.6 million to K25.7 million,” he stated.
“Through CDF, local communities can be the architects of their local development agenda through the statutory power given to them in the identification and prioritisation of projects that meet their felt needs. CDF is a template for the much needed and long-awaited full decentralisation of public resources management from the central government to subnational and local governance structures. The ACA, however, notes with concern that while the CDF Guidelines include many progressive clauses, there is contained in the document, provisions that suggest a departure from the statutory provisions in the administration of the fund. Further, there are some provisions with the potential to erode public confidence in the government’s willingness to devolve functions to lower levels of the governance pyramid. This situation, therefore, poses a threat to the political economy of the accountability process.”
He further observed that while the CDF Act provided that the CDF was to be used for community-based projects, two new categories in the Guidelines had been added to the scope of eligible projects under CDF, which include empowerment and bursary schemes.
Banda added that section 2.2.3 of the Guidelines had also imposed an obligation on every constituency to procure a brand new 4×4 motor vehicle for exclusive use in CDF projects.
“While the CDF Act in section 18 expressly states that the CDF is to be used for community-based projects, two new categories in section 2.1 of the Guidelines have been added to the scope of eligible projects under CDF, namely, Youth, Women and Community Empowerment and Secondary Boarding School and Skills Development Bursaries. Further, section 2.2.3 of the Guidelines has imposed an obligation on every constituency to procure a brand new 4×4 motor vehicle for exclusive use in CDF projects. This provision potentially violates section 37 of the Local government Act which establishes the Ward Development Committees and gives them the power to be the establishment responsible for identification and prioritisation of needs at the community level in the CDF process. This fact is acknowledged by the Guidelines in section 3.3.9. By imposing the 4×4, the Guidelines also assume that all constituencies will have the same need for transport. Our view is that some constituencies may need different types of vehicles such as light or rigid trucks depending on their unique needs,” he said.
“Further, section 8 of the CDF Act stipulates that the Fund shall be kept and managed from a single bank account. However, the Guidelines in section 4.3.2 provide for the newly added women and youth empowerment and bursaries to be a revolving fund banked in separate interest-earning accounts. This second banking arrangement has been added for purposes of managing the revolving fund, but the Guidelines do not provide enough clarity on when or if recovered funds can or will be returnable to the main CDF account.”
Banda stated that the CDF Act should be amended to transfer the authorisation of projects from the Minister of Local Government to the local councils.
“A further significant concern for the ACA is the constitution of the CDF committee which has remained in the power of the Member of Parliament. The ACA is of the view that the MP should not have the authority to appoint representatives of stakeholders such as civil society or councillors and these should be nominated by the stakeholders themselves. This reduces the ability of the MP to make the CDF a patronage fund. The ACA is therefore of the view that the CDF Act should be amended to transfer the authorisation of projects from the Minister of local government to the local councils. Centralising all decision making on expenditure goes against the very purpose of the CDF and negates decentralisation,” said Banda.