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More work on Access to Information Bill law

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President Peter Mutharika’s decision to assent to the Access to Information Bill does not mean implementation starts immediately.

This is according to Constitutional Affairs Minister Samuel Tembenu and Media Institute of Southern Africa- Malawi Chapter Chairperson, Thom Khanje.

Commenting in ‘Times Debate’ programme on Times Radio yesterday, Tembenu said the onus is on the Malawi Human Rights Commission, which has been mandated to oversee implementation of the same.

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“It will depend on how ready Malawi Human Rights Commission is,” Tembenu said.

On his part, Khanje said this would, indeed, be the case.

“The law has to be gazetted. The Malawi Human Rights Commission needs to be engaged in discussions. Money will also be needed for offices and procedures on how the officers will work [need to be outlined]. Government offices will also need to have spokespersons, and there will also be need to conduct civic education,” Khanje said.

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However, Khanje said he hoped the government would plan for this in the 2017/2018 fiscal year.

“By July, we should at least have something cooking,” Khanje said.

On his part, Tembenu promised that, after Mutharika’s decision to assent to the same, the government would only be “moving forward”, dismissing Khanje’s fears that the government would start deploying delaying tactics before ATI law starts being applied in the country.

Mutharika on Wednesday last week assented to the long-awaited ATI Bill as well as the Financial Crimes Bill.

The Access to Information law will enable citizens to access government information as per constitutional provisions.

During the process leading to the enactment of this law, there was a protracted war-of–words between the government and civil society organisations, as well as the media, as government attempted to water down the bill.

But development partners, including the British Government, have hailed Mutharika for appending his signature to the bill.

“Government of Malawi and in particular the President, His Excellency Arthur Peter Mutharika, should be commended for passing a progressive Access to Information Act and the Financial Crimes Act. Looking forward to the wholesale implementation of all provisions in the Acts for the benefit of all stakeholders, especially ordinary Malawians,” said British High Commission

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