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Malawi NGOs Express Concern Over Funding as Disbursement Responsibility Is Transferred to Local Authorities

October 9, 2008

As the disbursement of funding to 3,000 HIV/AIDS community-based organizations in Malawi is being shifted from international nongovernmental organizations to local government authorities, known as district assemblies, a number of groups are expressing concern about the ability of some assemblies to distribute the money, IRIN/PlusNews reports.

Bizwick Mwale, the country's National AIDS Commission executive director, said that the international NGOs, called umbrella bodies, were contracted in 2003 to disperse HIV/AIDS funding from donors and the government until the district assemblies had developed the capacity to take over the task. Mwale said, "We did an assessment after 18 months and found there was still a gap (in capacity), so we extended the contract to umbrellas for another two years, with the view that by that time (the district assemblies) would be ready." Although some responsibilities already have been transferred to the district assemblies, Ishmael Nkosi, a policy and advocacy officer at the Malawi Network of AIDS Service Organisations, said, "Our membership is worried because the process involved will be lengthy, and there are some reports that when a CBO (community-based organization) comes up with a proposal, (the district assemblies) demand a certain percentage from this amount," adding, "There are also concerns that there will be a lot of nepotism in the approving of funds."

The distribution of funding from international donors to local organizations also has proven to be a long and often problematic process, according to IRIN/PlusNews. McBride Nkhalamba -- an HIV/AIDS coordinator at the international NGO ActionAid, which served as one of NAC's umbrella bodies until 18 months ago -- said disbursements from NAC often were late or inconsistent. Groups also experienced delays or the cancellation of grants because they lacked the skills or training to adequately account for funds received in the previous quarter. Nkhalamba said, "An organization has to account through a very vigorous system, and some of the demands are discriminatory, because if you're dealing with a local organization there's only so much you can expect." He added that often so much time passes between when an organization writes a proposal and when it receives the funds that situations on the ground have changed.

According to Mwale, organizations should be prepared for some disruption in the disbursement of grants while district assemblies take over for the umbrella bodies (IRIN/PlusNews, 10/7).

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