Lusaka, Zambia – Common Cause Zambia (CCZ), in collaboration with Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP) and Panos Southern Africa, recently held a meeting with twenty-three Members of Parliament (MPs) in Zambia to address issues around the management and utilisation of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).
Representatives from the Ministry of Local Government and Housing, Auditor General’s Office and the media also participated in the meeting, which was opened by the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mkhondo Lungu.
The CDF was established by the Zambian parliament in 1996 to finance micro projects for poverty reduction in every constituency. Each Council is mandated to include the CDF for community-based projects in its capital budget.
However, the CDF has been riddled with problems due to limited accountability and transparency, and lack of community involvement.
An MP from Namwala Constituency in Zambia’s Southern Province, shared how council officials in 2014 had embezzled 799,000 Kwacha (US$114,143). The MP said he reported the matter to the Ministry of Local Government and the Local Government Committee, but no action had been taken to prosecute the culprits.
During the meeting, the MPs lamented the poor participation of community members in the management of the CDF, but also noted that it was the only government funding with potential to transform rural communities.
“Evidently, CDF has had a number of challenges and successes from inception. It is a fund whose potential is yet to be realised. Common Cause Zambia is optimistic the sustainable use and management of CDF is not far-fetched so long as all stakeholders commit to ensuring that they play their role in Development,” said Susan Mwape, an official with CCZ.
So far, the project has raised awareness on the challenges related to the management of the CDF, including lack of awareness of projects by communities, lack of legislation to effectively enforce administration and management of CDF, delayed disbursement of funds, poor management and accountability.
In 2014, Hivos’ Regional Office of Southern Africa (ROSAF), in partnership with Free Press Unlimited (FPU), supported CCZ to empower local communities and stakeholders to participate actively in monitoring use of the CDF. The project was supported under a fund called the Zambia Innovation Fund, which is aimed at strengthening citizen engagement, enlarging spaces of expression especially among young urban Zambians.
Currently in its fourth year, the Fund has supported more than 25 different projects across Zambia ranging from radio and television programming, tech innovations, curricula development, and unique youth development initiatives to the development of comic books.
The Fund was created out of a realisation that there is scope to create a platform using creative arts and innovative use of ICTs and media to stimulate civic engagement. Hivos believes that free exchange of information, room for expression and active citizen participation are essential conditions for a dynamic and democratic society.