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Government under fire over national registration

Government has come under fire over several irregularities that marred the mass national registration exercise, which ends in two months’ time

The exercise, which started in May this year, was on several occasions suspended during all the five phases in different parts of the country due to striking workers, faulty equipment and chieftaincy wrangles in some cases.

National Registration Bureau (NRB) officers on several times downed their tools in protest against unpaid salaries, a development which led to the arrest of some of them in Mzuzu last month following an order from Minister of Home Affairs Grace Chiumia.

Youth activist Charles Kajoloweka said in an interview on Wednesday that the hiccups indicate lack of seriousness on the part of government

He wondered why government reduced itself to a mere participant by leaving what he called an issue of national importance in the care of contractors.

“It is mind-boggling that government has had no control over 90 percent of what is happening in the exercise. For instance, issues of salaries are being handled by about two agencies if not more who have been sub-contracted by the United Nations Development Project (UNDP) which has proved problematic,” Kajoloweka said.

“Government needed to commit resources into the process and fully own it so that Malawians are able to hold it accountable in the end.”

Kajoloweka also faulted the level of preparedness for the exercise by government and its stakeholders.

He said looking at how the process has lost momentum along the way, there is need for government to review its earlier plans of linking it to the voters’ registration for the 2019 tripartite elections.

“The question of linking the national registration to the 2019 elections has been hanging, government is failing to come out with a clear position, because the nation has lost confidence in the entire process along the way and it would be questionable if government sticks to its earlier plan of linking the two,” said Kajoloweka.

But Chiumia said yesterday it is wrong to heap all the blame on government, arguing after the money was poured into the UNDP basket, the process of awarding contracts was done with due diligence.

“Every new thing has problems, it can never be perfect but as government, we were prepared and I am proud that every problem which was faced was duly rectified. As Malawians, let us be proud and stop this negativity, it’s high time we started appreciating the government for its efforts,” Chiumia said.

NRB spokesperson Norman Fulatira said the exercise is in phase five and, so far, close to eight million Malawians have been registered out of the projected nine million.

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