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Spanners in Public Sector Reforms programme

Saulos Chilima

By Deogratias Mmana

Government ministries are failing to make progress in the implementation of their public sector reforms performance contracts because relevant bills are stuck at the Ministry of Justice.

In addition, the ministries are also hit by a lack of adequate funding to implement their reforms activities.

During the signing of the contracts last year, President Lazarus Chakwera pledged his government’s total support to the ministries through financial, human and material resources for effective implementation of the agreements.

But a reforms progress report for some ministries covering the period between March and June 2021 shows there are spanners in the works.

In the report submitted to Vice President Saulos Chilima, who is minister responsible for the public sector reforms, the Ministry of Justice has been cited by several ministries as contributing to the delays in coming up with relevant bills.

Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Homeland Security, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare are among those that have complained about delays at the Ministry of Justice.

The ministries have also complained about lack of funding.

In its report, the Ministry of Industry for example says in the quarter under review, it did not receive adequate financial resources under Other Recurrent Transactions for its activities.

Under the Ministry of Homeland Security, review of the Immigration Act failed to be finalised in 2021 and has since been shifted to 2022 because of funds.

At the Ministry of Finance, reform area number five is the review of Public Finance Act of 2003. Public Finance Management Bill was not submitted to Parliament as per the targeted date of June 2021.

The change, says the report, was based on the guidance from the Ministry of Justice. The report says the new date for submission is November 2021 sitting of Parliament.

Two acts at the Ministry of Transport and Public Works- Railways Act (1907) and Public Roads Act (1982) are also stuck at the Ministry of Justice.

The ministry’s report reads: “Railways Bill was submitted to MoJ [Ministry of Justice] in December 2020 for vetting. Follow up on the Bill has been happening and the ministry is still awaiting feedback.”

The report adds: “The Roads Bill was submitted to MoJ for vetting in January 2021 and awaiting response. Follow ups are being done.”

The ministry cites capacity constraints at the Ministry of Justice, inadequate financial resources and Covid-19 as factors hampering progress.

The Ministry of Justice is also featuring at the Ministry of Mining as sitting on two documents.

These are the Draft Mine Safety Regulations and Mines and Minerals Regulations.

The Ministry of Justice is also yet to provide feedback to the draft of Petroleum Act of 1983 which was submitted for further review.

Asked why Bills have accumulated at the Ministry of Justice, its spokesperson Pirirani Masanjala said most MDAs submit draft Bills in raw form which forces to the ministry to rewrite them.

“Most MDAs send draft Bills which are in very raw form and it requires the Ministry to essentially draft such Bills from the scratch. The reason is that drafting of laws has its own form and technical language that must be adhered to,” said Masanjala, adding that his ministry does not vet but draft Bills.

On shortage of human capital, he said the Ministry was in the process of recruiting officers into the Ministry.

“Interviews were already conducted,” he added.

Commenting on inadequate funding to the Ministries, spokesperson for the Ministry of Finance Williams Banda said: “We fund according to cash flow as submitted by MDAs and appropriated by Parliament.”

Director for Centre for Research and Consultancy Milwad Tobias said in an interview that the reforms agenda which had much pomp is now losing the magnet to attract people’s interest.

“The outlook is that the momentum for reforms is subdued. We no longer hear of quarterly progress review meetings. We now hear of Presidential Delivery Labs. Whether they are complementary or substitute to reforms, we are yet to know,” said Tobias.

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