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EU urges Peter Mutharika to pass ATI Bill

The European Union Ambassador to Malawi, Marchel Gerrmann, has asked government to walk the talk by tabling, passing and implementing the Access to Information (ATI) Bill in the current Parliament session as promised by President Peter Mutharika.

Gerrmann said the Bill is important because it ensures domestic accountability, transparency and good governance.

He was speaking on Monday at a cocktail he hosted for Nyika Media Club members in Mzuzu, a grouping of over 100 journalists based in the Northern Region.

“As we have said before, we believe that Access to Information Bill is an important Bill. The President has said that he will table the Bill and we are looking forward to the tabling of the Bill. I think it’s an important Bill because it supports transparency and accountability and that in general it strengthens domestic accountability which I think is very important,” said Gerrmann.

In his speech, Chairperson of Nyika Media Club, Deogratias Mmana, applauded the EU and World Bank for including ATI Bill as one of the conditions for them to resume budgetary support and further asked EU and other cooperating partners to exert more pressure on government to table the Bill.

Mmana said the Democratic Progressive Party government is deliberately delaying the Bill so that the administration should not be accountable to its citizenry.

He said government is gagging the law that can enable citizens to get information necessary to participate in local governance while deepening decentralization and giving real power to the people.

“Your Excellency, we feel this government is playing monkey tricks on this Bill. The government does not want to be accountable to its citizenry. Government does not want to empower the people to own their development agenda. Transparency in this government is already becoming a problem basing it on the tough time government had to disclose the number of people that accompanied the President to his recent China trip,” said Mmana.

Recently, Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe told Parliament that EU and World Bank had set 20 conditions to government for them to resume budgetary support and one condition was the passing of the ATI Bill by March end this year.

The battle to pass the ATI Bill has taken over a decade now. During the 2014 tripartite elections, DPP and Mutharika made sweet promises to pass the Bill into law.

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party in its manifesto promised: “We recognize that access to information is a major challenge for the fourth arm of the State to play their rightful roles…in this regard, the DPP government will pass and implement the ATI Bill.”

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