A baseline survey by ActionAid has established that the absence of access to information (ATI) legislations in the country is hindering social accountability in public budget process.
The survey was conducted between December and January and sought to stimulate policy change to strengthen social accountability and the oversight capacity of parliamentary committees and civil society organisations in public resources management.
It was done in various public and private organisations and institutions that work in the health and agriculture sectors and various departments of the ministries of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development and Health.
Findings of the survey, which reveal hardships encountered when seeking information, have since been disseminated to parliamentary committees and the two ministries.
ActionAid food security, climate resilience and emergencies regional manager Chikondi Chavuta said the gaps in resource management laws and absence of access to information legislation are limiting factors for social accountability in the country.
The report has recommended amendment of the Public Finance Management Act to ensure that the public have access to audited programme-based financial statements and expenditure reports to fight corruption.
Chairperson of the Social and Community Affairs Committee of Parliament, Richard Chimwendo-Banda, who is also Dowa East member of Parliament (MP), said enforcing relevant stakeholders and strengthening parliamentary committees will help MPs with knowledge to fight the rigidities in budget allocation.
He said: “Social accountability is a huge challenge in the country’s institutions, including the National Assembly, such that mostly MPs do not influence the budget process as the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development controls all the allocations and set ceilings.
“All the time we [parliamentarians] are just rubber-stamps, approving allocations. n