The Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Mining has expressed shock over the missing Forestry (Amendment) Act in Parliament after it was passed in the House last year.
Parliament last year passed the 2017 Forestry Act which, among other things, proposes stiffer punishment to people found exploiting the country’s natural resources.
The Act was then supposed to be sent to President Peter Mutharika for assent to become law.
But speaking in Zomba on Saturday during an interactive meeting with officials from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Mining, the committee’s chairperson Halima Daudi said it was surprising that Parliament secretariat did not send the Act to the President and that it got lost.
She said failure to send the Act to the President shows lack of seriousness on issues of natural resources.
Said Daudi: “Let us not forget that without natural resources, we are nothing. It is thus very unfortunate that Parliament secretariat forgot to send this important Act, yet they managed to send some political Acts.”
She assured that the committee will do everything possible to ensure the Act is sent to the President as soon as possible.
“This Act is very important if we are to protect natural resources and win the fight against their illegal exploitation. We will soon engage our secretariat to expedite this process,” said Daudi.
On his part, Natural Resources and Mining Deputy Minister Welani Chilenga confirmed that Parliament secretariat failed to send the Act to the President and that it has since gone missing from the files.
The deputy minister said they only discovered that it was not sent to the President after the ministry enquired why the Act was not being assented to.
“If there is an Act that was supposed to be sent to the President as quickly as possible then it is this Forestry Act. As a country, we are facing a lot of challenges in managing our natural resources due to outdated laws,” said Chilenga.
He said the Parliamentary secretariat has since assured the ministry that it has started working on the processes to ensure the Act is sent to the President.
There was no immediate comment from the parliamentary secretariat on the matter.
Among others, the new Act proposes that a vehicle found carrying prohibited forest products or any natural resources should be seized and that the driver or anyone found in the business should get 10 years imprisonment sentence.
Currently, the highest penalty for illegal business of natural resources is K20 000.