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Foreign Affairs ministry fails accountability test

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The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) has described Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ failure to provide information on some of government’s key expenditures as a creation of space for impunity.

To date, despite promising to do so, the ministry has not yet provided a comprehensive expenditure report for the 41st summit of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) Heads of State which took place in Malawi in August 2020.

In May this year, the responsible minister Nancy Tembo promised, in the presence of President Lazarus Chakwera, to provide the information.

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Instead, the ministry only gave a partial report which showed that the government was yet to pay suppliers of goods and services.

The ministry has again downplayed the submission of an expenditure report for this year’s United Nations General Assembly despite committing to do so.

President Chakwera left the country on September 12 for Unga and returned on October 4, 2022. Government said the country had a delegation of 37 people.

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Four cabinet ministers and senior government officials avoided giving a breakdown of the expenditure during a press conference on October 9, 2022 in Lilongwe asking for more time for Treasury to compile the report.

When contacted this week for the information, Ministry of Finance’s Access to Information law officer Chimwemwe Kaunda said the role of the ministry is to provide funding to government ministries, departments and agencies and not compiling expenditure reports.

CHRR Executive Director Michael Kaiyatsa said it is worrying that the ministry continues to withhold such critical information from the public.

“This is public information. As such, it should be made available to the public. By failing to provide that information to the citizenry, the ministry is in breach of the right to information as enshrined in section 37 of our Constitution,” Kaiyatsa said.

Kaiyatsa reminded public officers that they hold public information not for themselves but as custodians of the public good and that everyone has a right to access this information.

Section 37 of the Constitution reads “every person shall have the right of access to all information held by the State or any of its organs at any level of Government in so far as such information is required for the exercise of his rights.”

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