Pressure continues to mount on President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera’s administration to release the report on Public Sector Systems Review, with the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and the Youth and Society (YAS) now condemning the President for deciding to conceal contents therein.
This comes after leaked pages of recommendations from the much awaited report are circulating in social media drawing mixed reactions about the Taskforce seriousness to move the country forward. Some of the recommendations have been described as “a joke” and an “insult” to the intelligence of Malawians.
On February 14 this year, Chakwera directed State Vice President Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima to form and lead a taskforce to review three government systems of allowances, procurement and employment contracts.
He directed that the 14-member taskforce should submit the report to him within 90 days.
Thus, on Wednesday last week, Chilima submitted the report at a function devoid of pomp and ululation at the Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe.
However, the secrecy surrounding the presentation and concealment of the contents therein, which contains recommendations on reforming the government system of allowances, procurements and employment contracts, raised eyebrows among stakeholders.
For instance, CHRR and YAS argue that the decision by Chakwera to cling to the contents of the report is inconsistent with section 37 of the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi, which stipulates that “Every person shall have the right of access to all information held by the State or any of its organs at any level of Government in so far as such information is required for the exercise of his or her rights.”
A statement signed by CHRR executive director Michael Kaiyatsa and his YAS counterpart, Charles Kajoloweka, adds that the decision is also inconsistent with the Access to Information (ATI) Act, whose objective is to improve the flow of information from the government to citizens and ensure that citizens access the information held by the government.
“According to section 3(1) (2) of the ATI Act, the only information that is exempted by the Act is cabinet records and those of its committees and court records prior to conclusion of a matter,” part of the statement reads.
On Monday, the Presidential Press Secretary, Brian Banda, told journalists in Lilongwe that the President will not disclose the details of the report and that the public will only be informed of decisions made on the recommendations at an appropriate time.
However, CHRR and YAS have reminded President Chakwera that the ATI Act was passed to allow citizens to see into the decision-making of their government.
They two institutions argue that when authorities make efforts to hide our view into decision-making processes, it serves only to undermine government’s transparency and accountability as it also closes the doors of mutual trust between citizens and their government.
“We further remind authorities that they hold public information not for themselves but as custodians of the public good and everyone has a right to access this information. When citizens are denied access to such information, they are denied their right as voters and taxpayers to hold their government to account and make informed decisions. We, therefore, call upon the President to ensure and facilitate the expeditious release of this report,” say Kaiyatsa and Kajoloweka in the statement.
They say while they do appreciate that the President needs time to process the report, they have disagreed with the State House Press Team that the report is not of public interest.
Kaiyatsa and Kajoloweka say as long as it was funded by taxpayers’ money, the report is of public interest and should be treated as such.
“Taxpayers paid for all the work that went into this report. It is, therefore, only fair and just that they are able to access it. We urge authorities to desist from making statements and taking actions that may be construed as promoting a culture of government secrecy. Malawi has come a long way since the dark days of one party dictatorship when policy-making was the domain of the president and, to a small extent, party officials. That painful era is long gone. Malawi is a democracy now, with the rights to access to information and participate in decision-making enshrined in our Constitution. With these rights, days of closed door, one-man decision-making are over,” they say.
“We, therefore, call upon President Chakwera and his government to respect the right to information by ensuring that citizens have access to the taskforce report. This is the only way that we, as citizens, will be able to make informed decisions about the report findings and hold the government to proper account on any policy decisions that will be made based on this report,” Kaiyatsa and Kajoloweka demand.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :