The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and the Youth and Society (YAS) have expressed serious concern over the decision by the Tonse Alliance-led government to cut funding to the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) and the National Audit Office (NAO) in the 2020/2021 national budget.
The two human rights watchdogs, in a statement made available to Nyasa Times, warn that the trimming of the funding to MHRC and NAO will negatively affect investigations bordering on rights violations and allegations of corruption in the public service.
CHRR acting executive director, Michael Kaiyatsa, and YAS executive director Charles Kajoloweka, who have signed the statement on behalf of their organisations, warn that the reduction in budgetary allocation to MHRC will have a negative impact on the newly operationalized Access to Information (ATI) Act.
Kaiyatsa and Kajoloweka say following the gazetting of a commencement date for the ATI Act, various stakeholders, including civil society and the United Nations in Malawi, expected the Tonse government to allocate adequate resources to MHRC to effectively enable it carry out its oversight role.
“CHRR and YAS note with grave concern that MHRC’s budget of MK1, 063, 582, 803 is a three percent reduction from its allocation last year while NAO’s budget estimates have been reduced by K172, 969, 440. These budget cuts are worrisome, especially now that the country is gearing up for the operationalization of the Access to Information Act. We understand that ATI operationalization requires K166, 000, 000 and yet only MK20, 000, 000 has been allocated,” reads the statement in part.
“It, therefore, comes as a surprise that these calls have not been reflected in their budget allocations. These budget cuts raise questions about government’s seriousness in implementing the Access to Information Act. We had expected the Tonse administration to match rhetoric with actions on implementing this important piece of legislation by allocating adequate resources to facilitate its effective implementation,” said the two organisations.
Kaiyatsa and Kajoloweka have since pleaded with the government to rethink its position on the matter, further appealing to members of Parliament (MPs) to save the two institutions by increasing their allocations.
“While we commend government for increasing allocations to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to enable it function effectively, CHRR and YAS regret that critical oversight institutions, such as the MHRC and NAO, have not been given the same consideration in terms of their allocations,” said the CSOs.
They argued that the reduced allocations to the National Audit Office also raise questions about government’s seriousness in addressing corruption in the country.
“In our view, NAO, which is mandated to conduct audits in government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), should have been one of the prioritized governance and transparency institutions in terms of funding, especially now that the government insists that it is serious about fighting corruption,” they say.
CHRR and YAS state that auditing plays a critical role in discovering and deterring corruption; hence, the government needs to have a comprehensive analysis of how government resources are being utilized in order to be able to detect and fight corruption.
“However, with the reduced resources, it is doubtful that the National Audit Office will be effective in auditing government institutions. CHRR and YAS, once again, warn that without adequate resources, these critical institutions will not be able to effectively carry out their oversight roles and a result, protections for human rights and good governance principles will be dangerously undermined.
“We, therefore, urge government to rethink its position and increase its allocations to these institutions. We particularly urge Members of Parliament (MPs) to address the matter by adjusting upward resources allocated to these institutions to enable them operate effectively,” plead Kaiyatsa and Kajoloweka.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :