Minister of Information and Communications Technology Nicholas Dausi says people anxious to see the Access to Information (ATI) law rolled out will not have to wait much longer, as most preparatory work is complete.
But his statement in the National Assembly on Friday became a hot discussion point as several members of Parliament (MPs) queried the slow pace at operationalising the law.
The matter formally emerged under a special standing order question by Lilongwe North East legislator Maxwell Thyolera (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) who asked why the law is not yet ready for public use a year after President Peter Mutharika assented to it.
Dausi said the rolling out of the law involves the coordination of three parties—his ministry, the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC).
He said, among other things, his ministry was preoccupied with the ground work while the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs needed to enact the regulatory framework as MHRC expanded its role as an independent supervisor and recruited information officers.
“When all is in place administratively, the minister will make a day for implementation. It is not the will of the government to sit on this very important Act,” Dausi said, urging people to be patient until the operationisation of the law.
He explained that after having recently been given the thumbs up by the international press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders, which rated Malawi to an improved 64th position from 74th last year, the government is aware that its credit is derived from the passing of the ATI law.
“It is, unfair, therefore, to say the delays are deliberate and amount to political posturing. That does not reflect the reality on the ground,” intoned Dausi.
MCP MPs Richard Chimwendo Banda (Dowa East) and Enoss Chitatanga (Dowa North) pressed Dausi to explain why the long-awaited ATI law could not be treated like some laws which come into effect before the regulation framework is fixed. They also wondered why the MHRC’s search for funding could not include targeting this year’s budget.
The minister said it was imperative for the ATI law to be properly concluded, adding that the search for funding should not be limited to a single source. n