Taxpayer-funded Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has said cabinet records should be part of the information which citizens should be given chance to access inlinewith yet-to-be passed Access to Information (ATI) Bill.
Members of Parliament (MPs) under the Parliamentary Committee on Media, Information and Communication are meeting various stakeholders to get their views on the much-awaited ATI Bill which is going to be discussed and passed into law, when the House resume sitting in a few days.
THE committee chairperson Sam Kawale also the Legal Affairs Committe of Parliament is also getting recommendations from stakeholders to ensure all the loopholes are sealed before passing the Bill into law.
Appearing before the two committees, Peter Mota the Legal Officer of MHRC said the cabinet records are fit for public consumption.
“There should nt be a blanket statement that they should not be for public consumption,” said Mota.
He also said the Official Secrets Act can be innecessary firewall to ATI, saying “people may not be able to access some information.”
Former vice president Khumbo Kachali, who is now Mzimba south west member of parliament said cabinet records should be accessed by the public, saying members of cabinet take an oath and “cannot divulge information they are privy to.”
But Mota said “there should be a way” of making cabinet records available to people.
Media Institute for Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter has since expressed concern with the oversight role, saying if passed in its current form where the Minister of Information is given oversight powers, the legislation will not serve the best interests of Malawians.
Misa Malawi national director Aubrey Chikungwa wants either Malawi Human Rights Commission or Office of the Ombudsman be given the roles to handle complaints from citizens who have been denied some information by a public officer.
He also raised concerns with the gazetted Bill, especially Section 11 (1), which obliges an information holder to submit to the minister a report on their level of compliance with the provisions of the Act.
“We believe this can best be handled by an independent body. It should be an independent entity reporting to Parliament, and not the minister,” he emphasised.
He said this is the trend in other countries such as Ethiopia and South Africa, among others.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :