Editor's note: A very helpful response from ZIPAR on some of the questions that the were raised by Zambian Economist readers on Facebook and Twitter pages. You can also follow the discussion to the article below via Facebook.
CDF reform should begin with guaranteeing a fairer distribution of resources across Zambia– before embarking on more comprehensive reform.
On Monday we published an article calling for reform of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF). It argued that the CDF should be allocated on the basis of a measure of need with resources targeted on the most deprived constituencies. The original article is available here.This has provoked a series of interesting responses and comments which are welcome contributions to this important debate.
In particular people have asked how our proposals will tackle the issue of abuse and mismanagement of public money which are associated with the CDF. We have previously argued for more comprehensive reform, looking at how the governance and transparency of the CDF can be improved as part of a programme of decentralization (this is set out below). Indeed we see introducing a needs-based funding formula as the first step of wider reforms that should be phased in over time.
We are delighted to see that our message appears to be getting through to policy-makers as the Hon Minister of Finance Mr. Alexander Chikwanda this week concededthat the current arrangements for distributing the CDF are not fair.Mr. Chikwanda's comments directly echo ZIPAR's critique of the CDF and our response to his statement is available here.
We recognize that concerns raised about the management of the CDF are real. Indeed these are not unique to Zambia.
In Kenya, it has been argued that the CDF institutional arrangement and political context are particularly prone to abuses because MPs as legislators, implementers and watchdogs of the CDF activities impose a major constraint on the effectiveness and transparency of the fund. Further, CDF is considered to be a re-election instrument by politicians thus creating a distortion.
CDF schemes in most of the countries practicing democratic governance systems have been criticized for breaching the separation of powers by conferring the executive powers of budget implementation on MPs. In other words, the CDF conflate the roles of the different organs of the state in a manner that has been described by the some as unacceptable as it makes MPs accountable only to themselves.
Sadly this is also evident in Zambia as seen by certain areas where the MPs have overtaken the CDF and imposed projects for political mileage.
Back in 2012 ZIPAR suggested a number of measures that should be taken to address concerns about governance of the CDF, which are set out here. In our paper, we suggested interim, medium and long term measures that could be taken as follows:
2. Medium Term Measures: In an effort to foster comprehensive local development, constituencies should develop and submit to their respective council chambers forapproval 5-year development plans clearly outlining constituency development objectives that are aligned to National Development Priorities. A constituency development conference facilitated by the planning departments of local authorities and the DDCC should be held within the context of National Development Planning to come up with a five year constituency development plan that would subsequently feed into the district development plan. It is in the same vein recommended that the timing of the suggested conference should be contra-cyclical to that of the regular general elections process to avoid politicisation appeals. The expected role of elected constituency officials is provision of leadership in the mobilisation of their communities to ensure inclusive participation.
3. Long Term Measures: The main long term strategy for the CDF would be to fully devolve it within local authorities' administration. There is therefore need to speed up decentralisation, by building requisite local capacities and devolution of responsibilities and matching resources to local authorities.