It is generally believed that forming too many committees can be a recipe for indecisiveness, which finally leads to failure.
Recently President Peter Mutharika appointed a committee to represent him and his government in discussions with the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) on issues raised in the PAC report of the all-inclusive meeting held in Blantyre in February 2016.
Without doubt, this is copied from the Presidential Committee on Dialogue during the transition from the single party system to multiparty system. During that time there were many issues to be discussed to achieve a smooth transition. Needless to say that the complexity of the issues then, made the Presidential Committee on Dialogue very relevant. The same cannot be said now, when people are simply making corrective recommendations to a government which has shown signs of failure in service delivery.
Probably what has triggered the formation of the committee on dialogue are the recommendations and actionable resolutions in the PAC report. During the report presentation, President Mutharika expressed dismay at the long list of recommendations for his government to act on. As a result, he chose a dialogue committee to be discussing with PAC. But is there anything to discuss? Without doubt this might be a calculated delaying tactic in implementing the recommendations. There was a high powered delegation of Cabinet ministers who should have already briefed him in February 2016 about the outcome, etc. In fact, before any recommendations, there were discussions. Therefore, what more discussions is required between the President’s committee and PAC? What government should know is that PAC was just a facilitator and cannot change anything without stakeholders’ involvement. Therefore, it goes without saying that the committee on dialogue is irrelevant.
Now, taking a closer look at the PAC report, one of the actionable resolutions is the issue of Executive dominance. What is there to dialogue about other than the President reducing his powers? In the same vein, one of the recommendations was that the President should be elected with an absolute majority of support to enhance political legitimacy. Without much delay, government should just start the process of making this into a law. In fact, all the actionable resolutions need to be implemented as per the proposed time frame.
What President Mutharika need to do is discuss the PAC report with his Cabinet ministers and come up with decisions in line with the demands of the stakeholders at the all-inclusive conference. With all due respect, delegating the report to some dialogue group is a waste of time. What is likely to happen is that issues will just be pushed backwards and forwards without any decision. The President might come up with excuses that he cannot do anything since the issues are still being handled by his committee on dialogue. Then Malawians will wait until the next elections. Then the current PAC report will be null and void. Is this what the stakeholders want?
Lastly, it can be said that whatever method Mutharika uses to respond to the PAC report, he must know that Malawians are seriously waiting to have their concerns addressed as soon as possible. Using government reforms as a cover-up might be unacceptable because these are mostly long-term programmes. n
With Emily MkamangaFeedback: firstname.lastname@example.org