The delays in the release of Constituency Development Funds (CDF) to various projects are heightening tension in Mansa, with accusations of political bias in the manner in which disbursements have occurred.
Legislation governing CDF states that disbursement of funds shall be in the first quarter of every financial year.
However, in Mansa, MakanDay has established that 2022 projects, grants and bursaries were approved late, resulting in disbursements occurring only in third quarter of the year.
Mansa municipal council public relations officer Rebecca Mawere, disclosed that out of the total of 816 applications received in 2022 for the bursaries for both Mansa Central and Bahati Constituencies, 78 were awarded bursaries in Mansa Central and 134 in Bahati.
“And also, out of the total number of applications received for grants, Bahati received 72 approvals with Mansa Central receiving 57”, Ms Mawere added.
Citizens who applied for grants for their various cooperatives have meanwhile raised serious concerns over the delay in approving their projects and subsequent awarding of grants.
Koselela Society member Golden Kashiya complains over the delay in the disbursement of funds and alleges that the committee only focused on the Patriotic Front Cooperatives.
“The disbursement of CDF was not fair, it was not transparent. The Council only gave the PF members,” he said.
“They took time to release the funds only for them to give the PF? That's not fair, and now we are being told that we will be considered under the 2023 CDF which we are not sure of”, Kashiya complained.
These complaints are echoed by village Headman Koselela, who says the lack of United Party for National Development (UPND) party councillors and chairpersons in most districts of Luapula has led to what he termed as discrimination against UPND cooperatives in the funding of CDF projects.
“We only have a council chairperson in Mwense who is UPND. No wonder we were left out. This is not fair. The 2022Constituency Development Fund did not receive its much-needed fairness,” headman Koselela says.
Meanwhile, John Kamanda, a member of Shapi-Kakomwe Cooperative believes that the disbursement of funds leaves much to be desired.
Kamanda says funds were supposed to be released in the first or second quarter of 2022 and not the fourth quarter when most projects should by then have been underway, before the rainy season.
Kaole Ward Development Committee Chairperson Alarm Mulima says it is surprising how projects were cut.
Mulima says “I don't know how projects will be worked on. It's rainy season and in Kaole, only nine cooperatives were funded. See how vast Kaole is? He asks.
“With only five boreholes!...let's not talk about feeder roads because we don't know how they will be worked on with the coming of rains.”
Mulima wants an increase next year from this year’s K25,000 received by his especially considering there has been an increase from K25.7 million to K28 million.
MakanDay established that as of 24th November, Mansa Central had only received the second quarter of 2022 funds, leaving the rest still pending.
This was confirmed by Mansa Central CDF Committee chairperson during a stakeholders’ meeting organised by Africa Directions at ZAOGA Church in Maiteneke area.
At the same meeting, Bahati parliamentary office professional assistant, Sylvester Kanakwenda revealed that the constituency has only received funds for two quarters of 2022.
Responding to these revelations, Mansa council PRO Mawere said funds for the first and second quarter of 2022 were disbursed to the two Constituencies.
She added that the council was in receipt of the CDF for the third quarter for both Mansa Central and Bahati, with Mansa central and Bahati each receiving K6.4 million.
"The funds will be utilised as prescribed by Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development approvals for community projects, women, youth and community empowerment and bursaries,” Mawere disclosed.
Local Government and Rural Development Permanent Secretary for Technical Services Nicholas Phiri announced with much fanfare earlier in the year the introduction of a 10-dayturn-around work policy meant for the approval of Constituency Development Fund Projects.
Phiri explained that the 10-day turn-around CDF policy was meant to actualise the decentralisation policy and allow the people to have their needs and projects on communities attended to at a reasonable time.
Asked to clarify on the delays, and whether CDF was exacerbating them, Phiri said: “The delay you are talking about should be coming from elsewhere not the Ministry because as it stands we don't have any applications pending approval on our tables. The applications you will find are for variations."
Vision Network Foundation executive director Bishop Maxwell Luchile says the problem lies in the CDF Act No. 11 of 2018.
“You know the Act gives the power to approve projects to the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, now imagine with the 156 constituencies in Zambia, with so many wards, when do you expect the projects to be approved? It defeats the all-purpose.”
Luchile proposes an amendment to the act, “because if we are talking about decentralization, then everything should be done at the councils. We can leave the auditing to the Auditor General's office”, said the Bishop.