The July 2009 Malawi Electoral Support Network (MESN) Workshop

As Malawi prepares for the 2010 Local Government Elections (LGEs),the Malawi Electoral Support Network (MESN) convened a planning workshop in July 2009  to which MALGA and a number of Civil Society Organisations(CSOs) advocating and lobbying for good  governance were invited.

Participants at the workshop recognised the role that Councillors play in local authorities. They observed that there is a lot of abuse of public resources at the local authority level as a result of the absence of councillors who are whistle blowers and ensure that there is transparency and accountability in the manner assemblies conduct their business.

The workshop made a number of recommendations. For instance it recommended that there is need for the Local Government Elections Act to spell out the exact educational qualification for a councillor. The workshop also recommended that the role of the assembly members (Councillors, MPs and Traditional Authorities) regarding local governance and development should be defined and clarified.
Other issues that were recommended to be urgently addressed include the low benefit package and negative public perception of councillors, absence of a ward fund (compared to a Constituency Development Fund for MPs), Councillor led management and planning structures below the ward and intergovernmental fiscal transfers that target the councillor’s area of jurisdiction, the ward.

The workshop concluded by pointing out that there is urgent need for civic and voter education to be intensified in order to remove the negative attitude citizens have towards the councillor’s office. The Workshop finally called upon the central government to demonstrate political commitment towards the holding of the local polls in 2010.