Justice and Peace under the Diocese of Karonga has bemoaned Government’s continued delay in implementing the Access to Information (ATI) Act saying the delay is fuelling massive corruption in district councils.
The Human Rights and governance arm of the diocese’s concern follows continued struggles by some Karonga communities to seek information from the Government through the District Council on the abuse of MK109 Million meant for the construction of a Maternity wing at Mpata Health Centre in 2015.
Speaking recently at a press briefing that Justice and Peace organized, Project Coordinator Obert Mkandawire said operationalising the Act will enhance other rights such as the right to health through the promotion of transparency and accountability in the health sector.
He noted that the public expenditure tracking process has already revealed that there are a lot of resources that have been embezzled through stalled projects or substandard projects in councils.
“Since the public does not access the information that can lead to the exposure of these corrupt schemes, communities will continue to face challenges in obtaining information from councils in order to seek corrective measures or demand measures in line with social accountability,” he said.
Mkandawire therefore called upon Government to expedite the process of operationalising the ATI Act of 2017 since access to information is a constitutional right for all Malawians.
However, reacting to the concerns Minister of Information, Communications and Technology who is also the Government’s Spokesperson Mark Botomani, said the ATI Act is close to being implemented since all procedures and regulations as required by law have been put in place.
The Minister also claimed that the process has been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic as they should have already engaged stakeholders to validate the regulations.
“If there was an administration that was committed to seeing this law see the light of day then it’s this government because even in the midst of the COVID-19 we are still looking for strategies in how we can engage stakeholders on the ATI thus the public should be rest assured on our commitment to seeing this become law,” Botomani said.
With Financial assistance from Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), the Justice and Peace has been implementing a health governance project in Karonga and Chitipa districts since 2018.