Parliament battles for operational independence
Speaker of Parliament, Richard Msowoya, has said there is need for all three branches of the government to move out of their comfort zones and consider the next generation by creating the operational independence of the Malawi Parliament.
Msowoya said when the country amended the Constitution in 1994, nobody saw it fit to change various acts that guide the operations of Parliament, considering the doctrine of separation of powers, and, today, “we have [a] Parliament that cannot be happy”.
He told people who gathered at Parliament Building for the launch of the three-year Malawi Parliament Enhancement Project on Wednesday that— with financial and operational independence— Parliament can do more.
“We also know that, if we had a common understanding among ourselves and the Executive and the Judiciary, we would have a task to do, to change even the laws that guide the operations of honourable members like the Parliamentary Emolument law, the Privileges and whatever acts we use because all these are dated back to the one party era.
“And you will understand that most of the times when we sit in Parliament and look at our Standing Orders, we realise that our Parliament can do a lot more but we are restricted,” Msowoya said.
In an interview after the launch, Msowoya mentioned the law of 1946 which makes the Attorney General, who is part of the Executive, to be the legal adviser of Parliament, making it difficult for the Speaker and Parliament to implement some constitutional provisions such as Section 65.
To strengthen Parliament and ensure its effectiveness, the project seeks to achieve political and fiscal autonomy, among other things.
Norwegian Ambassador to Malawi, Kikkan Haugen, whose government is financially supporting the project, said Malawi Parliament’s image continues to be worrisome and recent Afrobarometer studies confirm views that people do not trust Members of Parliament (MP) among other elected officials.
“In fact, only 40 percent were sure they trusted Parliament in 2017 while 81 percent trusted religious leaders. Forty three percent think MPs are involved in corruption. Parliament is a key institution in the democratic setup and must, therefore, be concerned with public perceptions of its relevance in a democracy. The faith and trust of the public must be safeguarded,” Haugen said.
He expressed optimism that the project would change the way Parliament does things to ensure value for public money.
Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Lazarus Chakwera, said those on the opposition side are committed to support anything that promotes efficiency, effectiveness and the independence of Parliament.
“We must be the ones with the political will to go and wash up if we don’t look right for us to perfectly serve every Malawian,” Chakwera said.
Leader of the House, Kondwani Nankhumwa, said the government would support the 2017-2020 Parliament enhancement project so that the fruits emanating from it should be enjoyed not only by Parliament but all constituents that it represents and serves.
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