By Andrew Magombo – Mana
Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Gospel Kazako, has described the Access to Information Act (ATIA) as a crucial tool in achieving the long awaited transparent government in the era of democracy.
Kazako was speaking in Lilongwe, at a validation conference on regulations for the yet-to-be-implemented Access to Information Act which was operationalized on September 30, 2020.
In his address during the meeting which was patronized by different stakeholders from public and private sectors, the minister said they are not doing this merely based on campaign promises but rather because it is imperative to critically review the draft of ATI regulations.
When asked on government’s commitment on this Act which has been derailed by previous regimes, Kazako said they are ready to implement ATI but since the Tonse Alliance administration believes in servant leadership and putting ahead people’s interests, they paved way for the deliberations which he described as vital.
He said: “It is crucial for Malawi to make ATI a reality because this will empower our nation with an active citizenry anchoring on informed viewpoints.
“Our country is in quagmire because a lot of plundered resources have ended up in other people’s pockets but Malawians were not even aware due to lack of access to such information.
“We cannot wait any longer to implement the Access to Information Act. The Tonse Alliance government believes in transparency and accountability because as a nation we cannot afford to keep people in the dark.”
Kazako further promised that every proposal from the conference would be considered before the final draft is submitted to the Ministry of Justice this coming Friday.
On his part, Chairperson of the Malawi Human Rights Commission, Reverend Patrick Semphere commended swift action by the government gestured in the manner they granted a positive response to the calls for a stakeholders’ meeting on ATI draft regulations.
Semphere further expressed gratitude for an additional K150 million budget allocation thus topping up the initial sum of K20 million which the Commission had earlier asked for the implementation of both the Access to Information Act and Gender Equality Act.
He said: “As a commission mandated with the task of overseeing the implementation of the ATI Act, we applaud the current administration for demonstration of tangible political will which is a clear manifestation of servant leadership.”
“When we raised the concern that K20 million was not enough to kick start the process, government gave us a listening ear. This is not a time-coded process but rather a permanent intervention into human rights of Malawians as such we look forward to donor support as well.”
The conference which was funded by the European Union Chilungamo Project came hot on the heels of raised concerns from several stakeholders who asked for a slight delay pending review before the regulations are gazzeted and later tabled in the current sitting of Parliament.