By Morton Sibale – Mana.
Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has cited lack of budgetary allocations as one factor that delayed the operationalization of the Access to Information Act (ATIA).
Commissioner Baldwin Chiyamwaka, who chairs the Civil and Political Rights Committee at MHRC said this Wednesday in Lilongwe at the Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) during a working session for guidelines and regulations for the operationalization of the Act.
Chiyamwaka said lack of resources allocated to the Commission for the purposes of the Act has greatly affected the processes of operationalizing the Act.
“Most of the processes have been done at a slow pace due to lack of resources. For instance, in the 2018/2019 fiscal year, only K40 million was allocated to the operationalization of the Act,” Chiyamwaka said.
Among others, the Act assigns the Commission the responsibilities of raising awareness on the right to access to information and advise government on matters of the Act.
Chiyamwaka said currently, almost 60 percent of the prerequisite processes for the implementation of the Act have been completed, hinting that the Act will commence soon.
“For the past two years, we have developed a communications strategy for raising awareness. We have also undertaken awareness initiatives for all government ministries, departments and agencies so that all responsible offices are aware of what should happen.
“Today, we are undertaking yet another crucial stage towards the implementation of the Act. We have developed guidelines and regulations for operationalizing the Act, which have been presented by the Minister of Information for validation by stakeholders,” Chiyamwaka said.
Responding to the funding concerns, Minister of Information, Gospel Kazako said he will lobby for more funding towards the Act, to ensure that it is being fully implemented.
“Government is fully committed to operationalizing this Act and the political will that is there is the most important resource that MHRC can have. The rest will fall into place. The focus now is to have the law operational and we will lobby for more resources,” Kazako said.
Kazako however, could not be drawn to disclose as to when he expected to announce the date for the commencement of the Act once the guidelines are validated, saying it was his hope to ensure the Act is operationalized as quickly as possible.
The guidelines and regulations presented by the Information Minister on Wednesday are one of the many challenges that delayed the operationalization of the Act which was passed by Parliament in December 2016 and assented to by former President Arthur Peter Mutharika in February 2017.