A full council meeting aimed at approving a COVID-19 response plan for Mzuzu City Council (MCC) ended in limbo on Wednesday after a disagreement erupted between the council secretariat and councillors.
The meeting which started at 14:30 hours began Mzuzu City Council Acting Chief Executive Officer, Chrispin Banda briefing the membership on current COVID-19 status before calling for the councillors to approve the response budget presented ended abruptly.
Councillors refused to assent to the response budget accusing the secretariat of bypassing them in coming up with the budget.
Speaking on behalf of the councillors, MCC Deputy Mayor Gift Desire Nyirenda who is also a councillor for Luwinga Ward said as much as responding to COVID-19 was urgent, the secretariat should have consulted before coming up with budgets.
“As it stands now, councillors do not trust the secretariat because they have a history of misappropriating funds.
“That is why it is important that budgets for COVID-19 response should be done by both the secretariat and the councillors together to ensure that the funds are used for the rightful purpose,” he said.
MCC Mayor, Kondwani Nyasulu agreed with the concerns raised by the councillors through his deputy in stating that tempers were up in the meeting because the relationship between the councillors and the secretariat has never been that of trustworthy partners, a problem he said was inherited from the previous council holders.
While conceding that the secretariat had indeed erred in overlooking engagement of councillors in budget preparations, Banda said the action was taken because the response to COVID-19 is an emergency that required much urgency.
“We accept that we erred as secretariat, but we had to look at the urgency of the matter; knowing that we have already delayed with the response plan; we thought following procedures would take longer.
“But since the councillors have insisted on reviewing the proposed budget, the full council will have to meet again on for review and eventual passing of the budget,” he said.
Mzuzu City like all other councils received K35 Million for COVID-19 response activities from the government as part of government’s efforts to mitigate the spread of Coronavirus in the country.
Malawi has so far registered 16 COVID-19 cases with two deaths