Government chokes Nice

Government has for 10 months failed to appoint members of the Board of Trustees for the National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust, crippling its operations, especially in carrying out civic and voter education for the May 21 polls.

Nice Trust executive director Ollen Mwalubunju said yesterday that the situation is “so difficult” as they are facing problems in convincing some donor partners to provide resources. He also said strategic decision-making is wanting.

A Nice officer engages community members
in fulfilment of the trust’s mandate

According to Mwalubunju, despite asking government several times on the matter, Capital Hill is not providing convincing responses and this is resulting in lack of checks and balances as well as quality control on their activities.

A Nice Board selection committee report we have seen, shows that the selection process took place in July 2018, and names were submitted to Minister of Civic Education for appointment.

Tenure for previous members ended on July 31 2018.

However, Minister of Civic Education, Culture and Community Development Everton Chimulirenji said the names were submitted to the Office of President and Cabinet (OPC), and that they are better-placed to provide an update on the matter.

Operations suffering

Mwalubunju said since submitting the names last year, government has been playing hide-and-seek, telling them that the process would be completed ‘soon’, but nothing is happening to date.

“It will affect our operations towards the polls. Firstly, the board exists to provide quality control, make suggestion, which could be strategic decisions in terms of engaging other partners. But, also, when requesting financial resources, we need the board because we need to spend more.

“Most development partners need an existence of the board. We are lucky that some donors have been understanding on the situation that we are in, but we cannot really on such understanding,” he said.

Mwalubunju said the board was also supposed to have information and provide oversight functions on major procurements by the secretariat.

“The delays also defeat the spirit of good corporate governance,” he added.

Chief Secretary to the Government, Lloyd Muhara, did not pick up his phone on several occasions to comment on the matter.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) vice-chairperson Gift Trapence has said it is shocking that almost a year has elapsed without finalising the appointment process.

“HRDC is aware that there are deliberate efforts on the part of Government to stifle the operations of Nice, particularly due to Nice’s critical role in the tripartite elections of 2019.

“We wonder in whose interest the minister works. If it is for the common citizen, then he has failed his public duty. As HRDC, we believe that this matter deserves his immediate action,” he said.

How names were selected

According to the selection committee report, a three-member committee—comprising Public Affairs Committee (PAC), NGO GCN and Malawi Girl Guides Association—was put in place to carry out the exercise under the chairmanship of Council for Non-Governmental Organisations (Congoma).

An observer team comprised officials from Ministries of Civic Education, Justice and Finance, but also a representative from the European Union.

Reads the report, in part: “Opening of the applications was done on June 25 2018 at Crossroads Hotel. Forty-three nominations were received and subjected to an administrative check. Out of the 43 nominations, 25 met the minimum application requirements for the selection committee to assess them.

“The outcome of the assessment process resulted in a shortlist of 17 candidates whose names were both published in The Nation and The Daily Times on July 14, 16 and 18 2018 for public scrutiny.”

We can independently confirm that these names were first published in Weekend Nation of July 14 2018.

Adds the report: “The selection committee reconvened on July 23 2018 at Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe and conducted the following business: Review public comments on candidates based on public appeal for scrutiny.

“After discussions, a final proposed list of 12 candidates was arrived at, taking into account gender, geographical representation and other considerations as outlined in the Nice Constitution.”

According to the report, the 12 who were selected were Viwemi Chavula, Gilbert Khonyongwa, Jennifer Mkandawire, Kent Mphepo, Lingalireni Mihowa, Reverend McGlyns Nyalubwe, Amos Tizora, Juliet Chimwaga, Davis Chunga, Dr John Mataya, Auda Msiska and Zolomphi Nkowani.

Nice Trust exists to strengthen democratic processes and good governance through the provision of high quality civic education, but also contributes to the attainment of free and fair elections by providing civic and voter education.

The trust also aims at deepening citizen’s voice to ensure that Malawians not only claim their democratic rights, but also hold duty-bearers accountable for their performance, and plays an active role in the democratic decision-making processes at all levels. n

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