Malawi Government through its Chief Information Officer John Chilikizo has defended government’s decision not to table the Access to Information Bill in the current sitting of Parliament.
Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture, Kondwani Nankhumwa, told Parliament in June this year that the Bill would be tabled during the September sitting of Parliament for deliberation and eventual enactment.
But last Tuesday, Nankhumwa said the bill might not find its way to parliament during the current sitting of Parliament due to some technical processes.
Chilikizo, who is also the Managing Editor of Malawi News Agency (Mana) supported government’s decision to defer the tabling of the bill, saying it is imperative that all the necessary processes be satisfied in coming up with such an important piece of legislation.
According to him, the bill is supposed to go through a set government approval processes before it can be tabled in Parliament for debate.
“These, among others, include official drafting by Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. Then the Bill goes through consultations with the Legal and Media and Communications Committees of Parliament and Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary and Legal Affairs.
“Later, it is introduced in Cabinet for approval and these processes could not be exhausted with the Access to Information Bill before the current sitting of Parliament rises,” explains Chilikizo..
He said following the adoption of the National Access Policy by Government in January this year, there was need for further consultations and refinement of the draft Access to Information which was in place and ready to be tabled in Parliament, in 2007, in order to align it to some of the social, economic and technological developments that have taken place over the years; and also to address some of the concerns members of the society raised on the Bill.
He, however, claims that the consultations have been concluded and all the concerns incorporated, the Bill has been submitted to the ministry of justice and constitutional Affairs for drafting.
“We all have to understand and appreciate that the drafting of a legislation cannot be done overnight. It is a tedious exercise which requires adequate time and attention by the drafts person in order to ensure that the end product is of good quality that adequately addresses and the needs and aspirations of the people.
” After all, a law is supposed to live, hence the need to be meticulous when drafting it. In this regard, it was practically not possible within this short period of time,” he justifies.
The bill, after drafting, will then be referred to the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary and Legal Affairs before it goes to Cabinet for consideration and approval.
Parliamentary Standing Orders also requires the Bill to be published in the Gazette in at least two issues at intervals of not less than 21 days before the first reading in parliament.
“Such is the importance of publishing any Bill in the Gazette that a Bill may not be introduced in Parliament for debate if it does not fulfil this requirement.
“The Access to Information Bill is not an exception. It has to be subjected to this requirement,” he says.
He says there is “very high political will” and commitment to have the Access to Information enacted into law as government recognises it’s importance in enhancing easy access to information by the citizenry.
“That notwithstanding, let us wait patiently and allow the due process take its course so that in the end Malawi shall have an Access to information law which all of us will be happy with,” he asserted.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :