Parliament yesterday rose after three weeks of deliberations described by the opposition as a “mixed bag”, but a cloud looms over the fate of the Access to Information Bill.
The eagerly awaited Bill was not tabled yesterday as expected after Leader of the House Francis Kasaila said the Minister of Information and Civic Education Jappie Mhango, who was expected to table the Bill, had been taken ill at the eleventh hour.
In an interview, Kasaila insisted the Bill would be tabled but he cast doubt on the possibility it would have been passed on Friday even if Mhango had been available.
“Even if the minister had been available or had delegated the powers to someone else, the Bill, just like the other bills, would have been referred to committees to work on it. So, it wouldn’t have been passed,” said Kasaila.
Leader of Opposition Lazarus Chakwera said while the House transacted several businesses, it suffered several setbacks in its bid to exercise oversight and fight corruption, citing in particular opposition from government that defeated this week’s opposition-led bill to amend the laws governing the Anti-Corruption Bureau as an example.
“The meeting is really a mixed bag. We have conducted our business in the context of food security despite being given assurances that all is well. We have conducted our business in the context of a diminishing economy and a context of a police State that dishonoured this House by arresting our MPs on baseless charges,” said Chakwera.
On Friday, the House referred several bills to various committees before closing, but also witnessed heated debate as MPs—who had earlier submitted questions for President Peter Mutharika to respond—joined Chakwera in withdrawing them until the President personally availed himself in the House.
The lawmakers included former vice president Khumbo Kachali, fellow Peoples’ Party member and Rumphi East MP Kamlepo Kalua.
The MPs’ action follows Mutharika’s suggestion to delegate the questions to Cabinet ministers to answer on his behalf.
During the sitting, the House, among several items, trimmed the national budget and focussed on the food situation and the troubled economy. n