Malawi govt rules out formation of Access to Information office

Government has ruled out forming an Independent Information Commission, a secretariat that would be looking into complaints after the Access to Information Act comes into effect as demanded by media bodies, saying it is very expensive.

Kasaila: It' expensive
Kasaila: It’ expensive to run

The commission, according to government, would also be against Capital Hill current policy of trimming the bloated civil service in a cost cutting measure as the economy continues to tumble.

Leader of government business in parliament Francis Kasaira told the youth oriented radio station, Timveni that it would be illogical to create more offices and employ more people when the same government is firing more others due to financial problems.

“The government has no money, that is a fact therefore we cannot be employing more people, that does not make sense,” said Kasaira, minister of Transport and Public Works and one of the inner circles and confidantes of President Peter Mutharika.

National Media Institute for Southern Africa (Namisa) had proposed for the creation of the office to receive and deal complaints should government officials refuse to give out information.

Kasaira said the draft bill instead provides that such issues should be handled by the courts.

IMF is asking the government to restrict employing more people into the civil service saying it is already large and recently the government fired over 80 diplomats from Malawi foreign missions as a cost cutting measure.

Kasaira however said the bill will be tabled in parliament before the expiry of this session of parliament in November.

“The bill will be tabled in one of the meetings in this session, it might be in May but obviously it will be referred to relevant committees like the Media Committee and Legal Affairs Committee for further scrutiny and consultations because we understand you the media have issues with the draft bill,” he said.

Namisa has also expressed reservations that the government wants to criminalise information, citing a clause which says a person would be charged K2 million if he or she abuses the information obtained.

The media body is therefore lobbying opposition and independent MPs to reject the changes by the government in the draft bill whilst President Mutharika has vowed to veto the bill if there will be any changes in the bill.

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6 years ago

Typical of enemies of transparency and accountability in this country. They know information is power that can be exerted on tools and fight corruption. Unfortunately, the entire malawi politics thrive on corruption. Ever heard of well-wishers funding political parties that turned into cashgaters? Ever heard of politicians buying City Council houses at give away prices?? Ever heard of transporters being paid twice transportation costs for transporting. subsidized farm inputs? Ever heard of civil servants being paid allowances for 1,000 days per person in a year? How? Yes how? We only have 365 days in a year. Ever heard of K577bn… Read more »

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