The Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN) has cautioned Malawians against making early celebration over promises by the Tonse Alliance-led administration to operationalize the Access to Information (ATI) Law.
MEJN Regional Coordinator for the South, Mike Banda, observed that this is not the first regime to make such promises before occupying the salivating positions in the government, but only to exit with excuses.
Banda made the remarks on Thursday night during a meeting the network organized to disseminate the results of a Public Expenditure Survey (PETS) of some projects in Salima and Nsanje implemented under the 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20 budgets.
“I urge Malawians to be vigilant and continue holding this government to account. I particularly appeal to journalists not to relax, thinking that the battle is done. The battle is not yet over. So, let us rise up and demand the operationalization of the law,” he said.
Among other issues, the ATI Act provides for the right to access information held by public entities and relevant public bodies.
Minister of Information Gospel Kazako recently assured that government is committed to implement the Access to Information Act, saying access to information is a fundamental human right key to the consolidation of the country’s democracy and development.
However, Kazako could not state when the law will be operationlised, only saying government is working round the clock to make that happen.
MEJN acting executive director, Bertha Phiri, disclosed that the PETS was conducted with funding from IM Swedish Development Partner under a project titled ‘Enhanced Social Accountability for Better MGDS III Results and Outcomes’.
“The aim of the project is to enhance compliance and responsiveness by duty bearers in the implementation of the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) III for development results and outcomes which will translate into improved service for Malawians,” said Phiri.
Parliament passed the ATI Bill in 2016. But the law has not been operational because the Minister has not set a commencement date of the law as required by law. The minister can only set the date if the necessary regulatory framework to guide operation of the law is in place.