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Parliament passes bill on environment

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Parliament Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change has recommended for parliamentary control of the presidential powers in appointment of leadership for the yet to be established Malawi Environmental Protection Agency.

The Environmental Management Bill, which seeks to replace the Environmental Management Act of 1996, paves the way for the establishment of the authority to be principal agency of environmental management in the country.

With the coming of the agency, the management of the environment will move from the Ministry of Natural Resources into the hands of the agency.

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In a committee report that Parliament adopted before passing the bill yesterday, Chairperson for the committee, Werani Chilenga, said although the presence of the president enhances the political will in environmental management, giving him wholesale powers will create a situation where politicians and not technocrats will be running the agency.

Clause 10 of the bill gives the President powers to appoint chairperson, vice chairperson and members of the agency.

He said the committee is concerned that leaving the president with unlimited powers in the appointment of the agency board, will compromise on its independence.

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“The bill explicitly states that the agency shall perform its functions and exercise its powers independent of any person or authority. In this regard, the committee noted that although the bill has taken a step towards achieving independence and autonomy by acknowledging the need for establishing this independent body, it is not clear whether the institution in the current institutional set up can provide the agency with complete independence on the issue of accountability,” Chilenga said.

Minister of Natural Resource, Energy and Mining Bright Msaka said the committee’s recommendation is in line with the current trend in appointments.

“If you have observed a number of bills that have been passed in recent times, they are passed in such a way that there is a lot of consultation between legislature and executive on the issue of authority to appoint and this one is just one of such instances,” Msaka said.

He said the passing of the bill is a milestone in the country’s move to conserve its natural resources.

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