SALIMA (Malawi News Agency) – Niras Malawi, a Non-Governmental Organisation has drilled four parliamentary committees on budgetary governance in order to boost capacity of the committees and individual Members of Parliament (MPs) to make improvements in the agriculture sector in the country so that it serves the rural communities.
The committees involved were of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Climate change, HIV & AIDS and also Nutrition.
Niras Country Director for Malawi, Mr Christopher Mpanga, said since there is a new cohort of MPs in the country as well as committee structures and new members, there was need to orient them on the content and scope of National Agriculture Investment Plan (NAIP) so that they ably lobby for increased resources to the agriculture sector for the benefit of rural communities.
He said the agriculture sector, despite being the back bone of the country’s economy, is not given enough resources which results into planned activities financial needs not matching the funding and allocation of financial resources from the Treasury.
“The absence of strong legislative framework is a strong indicator that good budgetary outcomes are believed to be unlikely.
“MPs are the representatives of the local person in their constituencies and as such we would want them to engage them and get information from their constituents regarding the developments in the agriculture sector,” he said.
Chairperson for parliamentary committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change, Mr Werani Chilenga, said there was need for mindset change for parliamentarians, if change in budget formulation was to be achieved.
“In Malawi, budget processes by MPs are just a formality. As parliamentarians we serve the interest of our political parties so no matter what knowledge we get we are far from attaining good governance,” Chilenga said.
He added: “On issues to do with the budget we just rubberstamp it even after days of debate because we follow what our political parties tell us.”
Vice Chairperson of parliamentary committee on Agriculture, Mr Ulemu Chilapondwa, hailed the training saying it will help new members from his committee to contribute and scrutinize the budget documents fully as well as monitor its implementation.
Chilapondwa said the committee will start lobbying for nothing less than 10 percent or more of the total budget to go into the agriculture sector so that it benefits the rural masses.
He said the committee will also focus on lobbying for more resources into nutrition sector saying the sector is always marginalized despite being a main contributor to the agriculture sector.
Vice Chairperson of HIV and AIDS committee, Mr Darlington Harawa, said the committee will ensure that they engage different stakeholders as well as the Treasury so that they consider increasing funding to the agriculture sector.
The training was conducted through a project called Support to Parliament and Media to Strengthen Governance in the Agriculture Sector (SPMSGAg) with funding from the European Union (EU).