Malawi govt forms steering committee to implement Access to Information Act

A steering committee to ensure the effective implementation of the Access to Information Act (ATI) assented to by President Mutharika in February has been formed.

Dzonzi speaking at the press briefing on the implementation of Access to information law by the Minister of Information and communications Technology Dausi (right)and the human rights in Lilongwe on Friday

The committee has 12 members selected from the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHCCR), the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs (MoJCA) and the Ministry of Information and Information Technology (MoICT).

This steering committee has been tasked to develop specific tools that will be needed to implement the Act. So far, the committee has already made progress in drafting terms of reference and a draft roadmap for the implementation of the ATI.

Minister for ICT Nicholas Dausi on Friday told journalists in Lilongwe that there is however still a lot of administrative and procedural groundwork that needs to be done before the Act is implemented.

“The act for example requires the appointment of Information officers for all government agencies, departments, parastatal organizations or companies contracted by government. These are the officers who would be responsible for the provision of information as stipulated by the Act. There is also a requirement to develop guidelines on the Act, capacity building for staff and infrastructure and also regulations on the implementation of the ATI Act,” said Dausi.

He however said the steering committee is working hard to make sure the Act is rolled into operation.

On the delay, Dausi said it would be unfortunate for other quarters to think this is a deliberate delay ploy from the government side.

“It would be an unfair comment for a fair person to think that way. But we would not jump and sidestep certain procedures stipulated in the Act which requires government to abide by,” said the minister.

MHCCR Chairperson, Justin Dzonzi, in his remarks said it was not possible at this stage for the committee to provide the exact date the Act will be operational.

He said all the processes required to be undertaken might all take some time.

However, he said the next meeting of the steering committee, which has so far met three times could provide a tentative timeframe as some issues would have been mapped out.

He revealed that implementation of the Act may start in phases.

“There is a possibility depending on the collective wisdoms of the three institutions that we may begin to implement the Act in phases. This is to ensure that we are covering one stage at a time,” said he.

According to him, this strategy will prevent impairing other existing working channels through which the media, individuals or stakeholders access public information.

“We do not want to stop those processes in order to begin this new process.  We want to fuse the two and have a graduated integration as the new Act takes effect,” said Dzonzi.

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