Youth and Society (YAS) has written to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) requesting for the Public Sector Reforms and Systems Review Report under the Access to Information (ATI) law.
YAS executive director Charles Kajoloweka in a letter dated July 10 2023 states that they will take unspecified action per dictates of the ATI if the report is not made available.
Reads part of the letter: “This request is being made in full cognisance of the provisions of the Access to Information Act, particularly Sections 15 and 18, with YAS reserving for itself a right to take steps as provided by the Act should the request not be acted on.”
President Lazarus Chakwera tasked Vice-President Saulos Chilima to lead the Public Sector Reforms and Systems Review Task Force in February 2021 to address wastage and corruption within the civil service.
The task force comprised eminent persons from the public and private sectors and the report, which was submitted to the President on May 21 2022, looked at overhauls of public service systems on allowances, procurement and employment contracts.
However, on June 6 2023, Chakwera said the report was not for public consumption but a reference for his administration. The President’s sentiments came amid calls from
the media, civil society organisations and numerous stakeholders to make the report public.
But Kajoloweka, has argued in the letter that it is in the interest of Malawians to have access to contents of the report and that this right is being exercised under Section 37 of the Constitution.
On July 22 2021, Chilima told Parliament that the reforms in the report were being implemented within the Malawi 2063 (MW2063) framework.
Kajoloweka, therefore, argued that having access to contents of the report will also assess the Vice-President’s claim and that it will form a basis for promoting accountability and public participation in democratic governance.
He further argued that the release of the report will cement the transparency and accountability pledge which the Tonse Alliance administration made prior to the June 23 2020 court-sanctioned Fresh Presidential Election.
“It is trite that citizen participation in public affairs is one of critical tenets of democratic governance, and the achievement of this is only made possible if State organs not only respond to legitimate demands for information by citizens but also are transparent in the manner they manage public information,” further reads the letter.
Kajoloweka confirmed the authenticity of the letter while OPC spokesperson Robert Kalindiza said they were yet to receive it.
Said Kalindiza: “So far, we haven’t seen the letter. If it reaches us, we will respond accordingly.”
Minister of Information and Digitisation Moses Kunkuyu argued in a June 15 2023 interview with Nation on Sunday that certain reports cannot be made public to avoid chaos in society.
Kunkuyu, who is the official government spokesperson, further argued that the best practices across the world are that the government scrutinises reports and recommendations and see how best to utilise or disregard them for the good of the people.
He argued: “For example, this particular report was looking at the civil service which is the biggest employer for the country and if, for instance, the report talked about the need to retrench half of the employees or promote all the employees, people would either panic or become impatient and this would definitely bring chaos.”
But governance experts and the opposition have criticised the government’s position on the report insisting that it should be made public for Malawians to use as a reference for assessment.
Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency executive director Willy Kambwandira recently told The Nation that Malawians need to have the document to enable them to hold the government accountable.
Leader of Opposition in Parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa also told Nation on Sunday edition of June 18 2023 that failure to make the report public signals lack of transparency and accountability within the government.
But speaking during the launch of the National Action Plan 2023-2025 for Open Government Partnership in Lilongwe on June 6 2023, Chakwera said the report is not for public entertainment.
He said: “The reforms report that I ordered and that was submitted to me by the Honourable Vice-President was not a document for public entertainment or public debates that produce nothing but noise.”
In a direct response to The Nation story published on May 29 2023 questioning his silence on the report, Chakwera said his administration is already implementing some of the recommendations