Opposition political parties represented in the National Assembly may now have one shadow Cabinet should the Legislature adopt a proposal by the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament.
The proposal is one of the committee’s several recommendations members of Parliament (MPs) are scheduled to debate on Wednesday this week following a review of the Parliamentary Standing Orders.
In November last year, the committee presented to Parliament a report on Review of the Standing Orders which it adopted after reviewing the 2013 version.
Committee chairperson Maxwell Thyolera confirmed in an interview yesterday that if approved, the proposal will give the leader of opposition in Parliament the mandate to appoint a shadow Cabinet comprising members from all opposition parties in the National Assembly.
Currently, the main opposition political parties have their own shadow Cabinets, but Thyolera said the new arrangement was aimed at improving effectiveness of the system.
He said: “As leader of opposition, instead of appointing a shadow Cabinet from the party he or she is coming from, must also consider the other parties that are in opposition. Currently, the MCP [Malawi Congress Party] and PP [People’s Party] have their own shadow Cabinets which is something that is not regulated anywhere.
“Their key role will be the checks and balances in the line ministries. We made comparative studies, it is happening in other jurisdictions and it is working quite well.”
But political and social activist Charles Kajoloweka said while the proposal looked attractive, there was need to be a little bit careful in order not to begin to create a structure that will not make any difference in terms of enhancing accountability and effectiveness of government operations.
He said: “So, in my view, we may not necessarily need a new structure but look at how to strengthen the current structure to ensure that the Legislature executes its mandate as is required because for too long it has not maximised its mandate to hold the Executive accountable.”
According to Thyolera, this is part of the House’s attempts to formalise the position of leader of opposition who apart from the definition itself and election and removal procedures, the position had nothing on the roles and responsibilities to be undertaken.
Among other recommendations the MPs will debate on Wednesday is the issue of mandatory appearance of the President to respond to questions to conform to the Republic Constitution.
The MPs will also debate the issue of trimming the number of parliamentary committees from the current 22 to about 13. n