The National Assembly has finally rolled out its communication and outreach project aimed at, among others, increasing access to information about Parliament, and involving the citizenry in the country’s democratic process.
According to First Deputy Speaker Esther Mcheka-Chilenje Nkhoma, part of the initiative will involve Parliament setting up constituency offices which will act as information and resource centres for the august House.
“The aim is to bring Parliament closer to people. We want to reach out to the society so that people should access information about what’s happening in Parliament.
“The constituency offices will be neutral meeting places for people of all political affiliations as the centres are non-partisan,” explained Chilenje-Nkhoma.
In the 2011/12 fiscal year, Parliament approved a revised budget of K2611 03 for the communication and outreach programme, whose outputs include provision of resources for the youth Parliament, development of civic education materials, radio and television programmes and conducting learning sessions on parliamentary work.
Chilenje-Nkhoma also disclosed plans by Parliament to launch a radio station.
“We have already secured a broadcasting licence with the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra), but we need start up broadcast equipment.
“This will strengthen institutional capacity of the National Assembly in areas of technology as the need for a digital and paperless Parliament is becoming stronger. The radio will also go a long way in helping us successfully implement our next strategic plan spanning from 2015 to 2020,” she stated.
Chief public relation officer for Parliament, Leonard Mengezi, said the institution tried to secure radio equipment from South Africa last year, but it was too expensive, thus the internal procurement committee could not recommend it.
“Our budget could not accommodate the amount demanded by the seller. We were working on a meager K200 million budget and the seller required much more.
“Let me also state clearly that the money was returned to government. However, the committee looking into this is meeting shortly to secure less expensive equipment from elsewhere,” he said.
Mengezi also explained that the youth parliament project is currently running although it has been facing procurement and logistical challenges in printing information, education and communication materials.
“The materials have been developed already, they are just waiting for a nod from the internal procurement committee,” he said.