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The Decentralization policy was developed following the 1998 Local Government Act, however the implementation of decentralization has been challenging. Up to now, the devolution is not fully implemented, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation at national and district levels has not been harmonized and the capacity of the district councils to involve communities in planning or to deliver services is challenged. Local councils have governance structures established by the Decentralization policy as hierarchical decision making (policy making) structures. The stakeholders interviewed for the government’s Integrated Rural Development Strategy strongly agreed that institutionalization and implementation of decentralization is key to making rural development interventions sustainable, promoting self-reliance and social justice through quality participation. The effectiveness of the district commissioner as the head of all the sectors in his/her district is hampered by a dual reporting system that allows sectors to report to their sectoral ministries, leaving the DC with limited opportunity to effectively coordinate.
Due to the lack of harmonization of development planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation at national and district level, national development plans have been formulated every five years with an M&E Plan, whereas the district development plans have been formulated at different times, with different M&E Plans. This has negatively affected the mobilization and accountability of resources and results. The 2017-2022 Malawi Growth and Development Strategy III has fully integrated the Sustainable Development Goals, but so far, the process of aligning district development plans to SDGs has only been completed in few districts. Without external funding, most districts are struggling to have district development plans based on Village Action Plans, as this makes the process costly and time-consuming. The alignment of available resources to priority areas also seems to be problematic in the face of patrimonial politics that results in politically induced projects in some cases.
Local councils are mandated by the local government act to effectively deliver services in their areas of jurisdiction. However, the local councils face challenges to function to the satisfaction of citizens mainly due to the limited availability of qualified staff and financial resources. They are unable to provide the required infrastructure, education, communication, transport, health, markets, roads and electricity that their populations are demanding, and there is little data available to help the councils priorities the interventions that have the most impact or to conduct effective, targeted resource mobilisation to attract partners to support the delivery of local development.
Weak coordination remains a challenge both nationally and locally. Line ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) struggle to coordinate sectoral programmes. Even with sector working groups (SWGs) coordination has remained a major challenge in development programmes in Malawi. Sectors implement projects, instead of letting District Councils implement, on the basis that District Councils have limited capacity. While there are Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Councils and NGOs in some districts, there is no national guidance to facilitate effective implementation of such MoUs by MoLGRD, resulting in duplication and fragmentation of rural development programmes.
As can be seen from the above, a key development challenge for decentralized multi-sector and multi-level service delivery in rural Malawi are weak implementation capabilities on the ground. Multiple, diverse actors including the private sector, NGOs, faith-based organizations, traditional structures and community-based organizations play an important role in the delivery of services at district and community levels in Malawi. However, often the providers and the services they offer are unknown to the relevant ministries, local authorities and stakeholders. The services do not always conform to government standards and systems, and they are rarely well integrated within government structures. The provision of services depends on available projects and funding, resulting in services on offer to beneficiaries being unpredictable and unsustainable. Further, the provision of quality services is often hampered by limited mobility, poor infrastructure, lack of equipment, lack of qualified human resources, weak management and weak coordination.
Past experiences with top-down planning, integrated development projects, inconsistent data availability, weak execution and/or weak financial sustainability suggest that effective service delivery depends on closing the implementation gap at the village, area and district level. In recent years, tailored approaches to multi-sectoral and multi-level service delivery have tackled the implementation gap in a number of LDC and middle-income countries. Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador — and more recently, Honduras and the Dominican Republic — provide examples of management systems that make use of real-time data, administrative registries and digital platform to accelerate progress on the SDGs. To address some of the key challenges faced by the districts in Malawi, with the aim of strengthening the district councils to be able to lead, plan, coordinate, implement and monitor service delivery, the project has identified some potential drivers of change. The Hotspot approach will focus on strengthening the leadership and coordination role of district council, equipping and capacitating them to take charge of the local development process and make the most out of the resources available.
The hotspots approach addresses the implementation gap by merging an integrated management tool designed to help decentralized implementation of services across social, economic and environmental sectors, into Malawi’s District Development Planning and Budgeting processes. At its core, the hotspots approach involves: (a) a real-time data dashboard collected from household and service providers — that digitalizes and geo-references both well-being indicators and service indicators — allowing policymakers and citizens to measure progress and identify health, nutrition, education, employment, resilience, capacity and other bottlenecks as services are delivered, and (b) a multi-stakeholder platform led by local planning authorities, using evidence to target services to those in most need, build resilience to shocks, and accelerate coordinated critical mass interventions across villages, areas and districts – including line/sector ministries and all other partners on the ground.
UNDP and Ministry of Local Government is currently designing a hotspot dashboard to roll out the hotspot approach for a few districts. It is against this background that UNDP requires the services of a Project Specialist for the Hotspots Approach. This position is located in the UNDP Malawi Country Office. Under the general supervision of the Portfolio Manager, the incumbent will be responsible for leading the daily implementation of the Hotspots project components.
Implementation and Project Management:
Provision of management and technical advice for the implementation of Hotspots focusing on achievement of the following results:
Provision of programme support for the implementation of Hotspots, focusing on the following actions and achievement of the following results:
Building strategic partnerships and implementation of the resource mobilization strategy of the Hotspots portfolio and the CO focusing on achievement of the following results:
Knowledge Management and Communications:
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Contract Duration: 1 Year with possibility for extension