Prominent legal experts in the country warn that democratic governance remains wishful thinking if public officers cannot be held accountable for their acts, omissions, decisions, policies and use of public resources.
They say lack of administrative transparency, weak representative or participatory democracy, a failure to separate the powers of organs of the State, and a weakening of both vertical and horizontal accountability are some of obstacles affecting effective accountability in Malawi.
International law expert Professor Dan Kuwali and former Attorney General Chikosa Silungwe, make the observations in a recently published paper titled Horizontal accountability: Bottom-up oversight of public duty bearers in Malawi.
The 25-page paper has been published by the Centre for Comparative Law in Africa.
The two opine that since adoption of the Constitution and advent of multiparty democracy in 1994, there have been several cases where public officers have been unable or unwilling to exercise the public duty required of persons exercising State authority.
Reads the paper in part: “Over the years, a lack of administrative transparency and an ambivalence about providing access to information have bred abuse and impunity by the executive.
“One example, is the apparent secrecy surrounding assets declaration and the failure to disclose assets by some public officers. As it stands today, the law relating to the disclosure of assets in Malawi can be regarded as a paper tiger, since no one has access to the records and there are no concrete enforcement mechanisms in place to deal with non-disclosure.”
But Odpod public relations officers Tiyamike Phiri attributed the failure to gazette summaries of declarations to, among others, limited human resource capacity to capture data for the purpose of gazette and other relevant reports pursuant to the statutory functions of the directorate.
In the paper, Kuwali and Silungwe also blame the legislature of being egocentric, saying public outcry following the passage of the now-repealed Injunction Act of 2010, could be a red flag, indicating a lack of consultations with electorate.
The repeal of the recall provision in Section 64 of the Constitution in 1995, according to the authors, has further led to a largely unaccountable legislature as members of Parliament (MPs) are no longer afraid of being recalled by their constituents.
While the Executive has been faulted for appointing judges to serve as Attorneys Generals and Chief Secretary to Government, which they argue, makes it makes a mockery of the doctrine of separation of powers.