The Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has expressed concern over government’s decision to reduce its funding in the 2020/2021 national budget.
A statement signed by MHRC Chairperson Patrick Semphere says the funding has been reduced at a time the commission’s responsibilities have increased.
The commission notes that its budget of K1,063,582,803 is a three percent reduction from their last year’s allocation at a time its obligations have expanded with its new statutory obligations of implementing the Access to Information (ATI) Act and the Gender Equality Act (GEA).
“ATI operationalisation requires K166,000,000 and yet only K20,000,000 is allocated while GEA requires K58,000,000, and again only K20,000,000 has been allocated.
“Other areas to be affected are investigations into human rights violations as evidenced by increased case backlog, human rights monitoring and due diligence, human rights education gap and accessibility to the services of the commission by the general public,” reads the statement in part.
MHRC adds that these challenges were already brought to the attention of government during the high-level meeting with President Lazarus Chakwera and several Cabinet ministers.
“It thus comes as a surprise that these concerns have not been reflected in the budget allocation. From the foregoing, it is clear that the proposed allocation for the commission in the 2020/2021 national budget falls short of its requirements,” reads the letter.
In the 2020/2021 national budget government has allocated K1,063,582,803 of which K493,582,804 is for personal emoluments and K570,600,000 is for other recurrent transactions (ORT).
Under ORT, K437,957,010 is for generic needs and K40,000,000 is for implementation and oversight of ATIA and GEA.
MHRC says an ideal budget for its operations for 2020/2021 is K2,200,000,000 of which K800,000,000 is for personal emoluments and K1,400,000,000 for ORT.
But treasury spokesperson Williams Banda said with the three percent reduction as compared with last year’s allocation, MHRC has received a lion’s share compared with other governance institutions.
Banda said the resources will always be few against unlimited needs and urged MHRC to prioritise activities which cannot be pended.
“If you compare the allocation of MHRC with other governance institutions such as Ombudsman and the Law Commission, you will note that their budget is far much higher because we already included the addition tasks of ATI implementation.
“Nobody can get whatever they want even in resource rich countries. We have to live within our means,” he said.