The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) has urged governement to immediately operationalize the Access to Information (ATI) legislation to help enhance transparency and accountability in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
While recommending government for responding to calls to nationalize the COVID-19 response, the organization said it is well aware of the high risk of corruption posed by the Covid-19 pandemic which need to be checked.
“We are particularly aware that the scale and pace of Covid-19 requires urgent measures such as emergency procurements and decision-making in order to save life. While this is desirable, it also increases the risk of corruption.
“Transparency International (TI) has considered procurement in the health sector a high risk for corruption during this crisis. TI’s observations are consistent with our own observations here in Malawi, where lack of transparency on how COVID-19 funds are being spent is still a big challenge,” reads part of the statement signed by CHRR Acting Executive Director Michael Kaiyatsa.
For instance, the organization noted with deep sadness recent attempts by some cabinet ministers to hide the fact that they have been drawing hefty allowances for assignments related to the COVID-19 response.
Kayiyatsa said even more worrying is the fact that it had to take a leaked memo for Malawians to get to know the truth about this matter.
“Without the leaked memo, which outlined details of field trips being undertaken by members of the now disbanded special cabinet committee on COVID-19 and the Parliamentary Committee on Health, Malawians would not have known the truth.
“It is against this background that we urge the government to immediately operationalize the Access to Information Act (ATI) Act to compel duty bearers to proactively disclose information related to the COVID-19 response. Operationalization of this Act is crucial as it would empower Malawians even more to demand from duty bearers information on how resources meant for the Coronavirus prevention and response are being utilised,” he said.
He added, “this is the only way to ensure that the billions of Kwachas that have been allocated to the fight against this pandemic achieve their intended purpose and do not end up in people’s pockets.Beyond corruption, access to information will help the public to get to know more and more scientifically proven measures that they can follow to avoid catching the disease or manage it effectively. Without timely access to information, lives can be lost.”
The statement said CHRR, therefore, strongly calls on the Malawi government to recognize the importance of citizens access to information during this crisis and do the needful in terms of operationalizing the Act.
This according to CHRR, will in turn undermine Malawi’s efforts to realise Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
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