CSOs, legislators demand speedy  Access to Information law implementation

Some civil society organisations (CSOs) and legislators are demanding the speedy implementation of Access to Information (ATI)  Act  to enhance transparency and accountability in government.

Mussa: optimistic the long-awaited Access to Information  Act will come into force

This was said at a meeting the Catholic Commission of Justice and Peace (CCJP) of Karonga diocese organized in Salima over the weekend attended by officials from Media Institute of Douthern Africa (Misa) Malawi chapter and the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), among others.

CCJP coordinator in Karonga Obert Mkandawire said the implementation of the law would help the tracking down of how public money especially in the health sector.

“We don’t know how the money in the health sector is used, yet this is public money, this is why we want this law for the purposes of transparency and accountability,” he said.

Kasungu east legislator  Madalitso Kazombo said although the ministry of Health is allocated huge amounts of money by parliament, medical drug shortages continues and the health sector services seems to dwindle.

He therefore agreed that there was need for this law to be implemented.

MHRC official Lewis Pendame said the state rights body completed everything as regards to the implementation of the law, saying it only awaits the minister of Information to pend his signature.

Minister of Information Henry Mussa said the ATI Act will come into force “soon.”

Mussa attributed the delay in effecting the law to delays in regulations and awareness on the Act, among other factors.

He said most stakeholders, including traditional leaders, need to be sensitised on the how the Act will work in relation to issues of decentralisation because they will be key in disseminating information to the public when a need arises.

ATI objectives include providing people access to information from information holders and duty-bearers, ensuring that public bodies disclose information they hold and providing a framework to facilitate access to information.

The law also seeks to promote routine and systemic information disclosures, provide for the protection of persons who release information on public interest and facilitate civic education on their right to access to information.

The ATI law presents an opportunity for Malawians to exercise their right to access information. Although this right is already in the Constitution, it has been impossible for the people to exercise it because of a lack of the necessary framework and procedures for doing so.

The delay in putting the Act into force has been a cause for concern for several stakeholders, including Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) and Misa Malawi Chapter who have asked government to explain the delays.

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Kapado Chimuthawirenji
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