As President Lazarus Chakwera faces pressure to release the public sector systems review report, governance and political commentators have differed on whether the decision to withhold the report is justified.
Addressing the fortnightly Monday State House Press Briefing on Monday , presidential press secretary Brian Banda said the President decided to process the report findings internally.
But political commentator Humphrey Mvula, who worked with the United Democratic Front and People’s Party governments, while faulting State House for creating an impression it would be made public, said the President needs time to study the report.
In February, Chakwera tasked Vice-President Saulos Chilima to form a task force to recommend steps to overhaul public sector systems on allowances, procurement and employment contracts. Chilima submitted the report to the President in private last Friday after a 14-member panel completed its work, but its contents were kept under wraps.
Banda said the President and Vice-President agreed on the steps being taken to handle the report and ruled out that the report should be made public.
He said: “The President will announce decisions made on the recommendations at an appropriate time, but not the details of the report itself.
“What we are saying is that these are recommendations and the President receives a lot of recommendations, but when the President makes a decision based on the recommendations, he will decide which recommendations he will take on board or not.”
Speaking at the same briefing earlier, State House director of communication said Chakwera has already met Minister of Justice to discuss some of the legal recommendations of the report.
In an interview, Mvula said State House’s position was logical as the President needs to manage the ramifications of the recommendations.
He said: ” In this instance, they gave an impression that they will provide the report to the public. It’s like the issue of Cabinet assessment. They were under no obligation to announce that they will assess the Cabinet. The next mistake was mentioning the Vice-President’s role in the delay of the Cabinet.
“But in this case, they are doing the right thing. They don’t have to release the report to the public now, perhaps at some point in the future.”
Mvula further explained what may be going on in the top echelons of government.
He said: “When a President commissions a group of people to do such work, he must go through the report and be able to ask for answers on certain things from those who compiled it.
“At some point, the Cabinet will have to be briefed on the report. The first stage is present the report, then the President seeks advice from key advisers or ministers, and the third stage is for Cabinet to deliberate and provide guidance. The President may speak after such processes.”
However, University of Malawi-based political analyst Boniface Dulani said the decision raises questions about the administration’s commitment to transparency and accountability.
He said: “They can be very selective. It’s like the government saying we have a manifesto and we will implement it without showing it. If there are things they don’t want to implement, they should make justifications on why they think these are not feasible, otherwise it smacks of a lack of transparency.”
Another political analyst George Phiri also said it was difficult to justify the decision to withhold the report from the public.
Members of the task force included former Secretary to Treasury Ronald Mangani, Professor Nyovasi Madise, Aubrey Mvula, Henry Chingaipe, Steven Matenje, Waki Mushani, private practice lawyer John Suzi Banda, the Reverend Elsie Tembo, Tione Chilambe, Zunzo Mitole and Nwazi Nthambala. n