Chiefs Drilled on Access to Information Act

Secretary for Information and Communications Technology says the law on access to information, once operational, will empower individuals to question their leaders on how programmes are implemented and resources used in their communities.

Speaking during a workshop for traditional leaders on Access to Information Act (ATIA) in Lilongwe Tuesday, Dr Esmie Kainja said chiefs are a bridge between the community and local government.

She said there was need for local leaders themselves to understand the law so that they can better explain to their subjects what it says.

Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) in conjunction with Ministry of Information and Communications and Technology, is orienting traditional leaders on how best they can use ATIA.

“Traditional leaders have a big role to play in order for local people to properly understand this Act.

“Chiefs are the ones who stay with people in the villages and we want them to understand the law first so that when they go back home, they should tell their people what the law is saying,” said Dr Kainja.

She explained that the law would empower people to hold their leaders accountable. Kainja therefore, urged chiefs to encourage their people to use the law once it is operational, to get reliable information on matters that affect them.

“This act will empower people to go and ask for any relevant information concerning development at the district council without any problems, as it will be their right to know how the Local Development Funds (LDF) and Constituency Development Funds are used,” said the PS.

She added this would clear the mind of people who label civil servants as thieves because everything would be open for everyone to know what is happening as opposed to the current situation.

In her remarks, Malawi Human Rights Commissioner, Martha Chizuma said the law would help any citizen in the country to access information from government and its agents.

“It is the law that will make everyone, be it in the village or town, poor or rich, to go and ask for information at the hospital on how much drugs they have received in a particular period and how much they are remaining with.

“The law is empowering everyone to be participating in monitoring things by giving them freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas,” Chizuma said.

In January, 2014, a National Access to Information Policy was adopted to govern the process of granting access to information and empower the citizenry to demand information.

In December, 2016, the National Assembly passed the Access to Information Act (ATIA). President Arthur Peter Mutharika assented to the ATIA on February 10, 2017 and on February 16 it was gazzetted.-MANA