The Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), has taken a swipe at the councils for failing to provide information to the citizenry in line with the long-awaited Access to Information Act (ATI).
State-funded human rights watchdog has accused the councils of suffocating efforts to entrench transparency and accountability at all levels of governance.
MHRC Director of Civil and Political Rights, Peter Chisi, made the sentiments in Lilongwe on Monday during the National Social Accountability Summit on Local Development, which Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) organized the summit with funding from Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA).
The summit was organized to create a platform for the participants to reflect on the state of accountability and transparency in the management of local development in a decentralized Malawi.
Chis said a snap survey the Commission conducted recently revealed that most councils are not abiding by the ATI Act and are thereby violating the citizens’ rights to access to information on developmental projects and other equally important issues.
He challenged civil and public servants to resign and pave the way for others who are ready and willing to live by the ATI Act.
“Even when we were developing our Media and Communication Strategy on Access to Information, we noted that, part of the part of the problem is that Malawi has been characterized by a culture of secrecy. In which case, it is not common for public officials to provide information and that they find it as something they are not used to,” he said.
“However, with social change and with proper civic education, and also full compliance with the law, we believe that that culture of secrecy must go. We are in a new way of doing things. So, demand for transparency and accountability as well as information should be seen as a norm. In which case, those that are not ready and willing to abide by the law, must actually move aside and let those that are democratic and concerned with good governance take charge of the affairs,” Chisi added.
CCJP national coordinator Boniface Chibwana said although the country is making strides towards decentralizing the councils, effective social accountability is yet to be entrenched in the management of local development.
Chibwana therefore emphasized that Malawians need to critically reflect on the challenges that are impeding the country from making meaningful and concrete attainments in scaling up local governance, which he said is a prerequisite of successful local development.
“This important national engagement which discusses an important issue in our country as we reflect on the state of accountability and transparency in the management of local development in a decentralised Malawi. Ladies and gentlemen, it is widely accepted and believed that while the Decentralisation Policy (1998) and the Local Government Act provided hope to Malawians about an improved state of development governance, not all is rosy,” he said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :