The African Institute for Development Policy (Afidep) has commended the government and Parliament for passing the Constitutional and Parliamentary Service Amendment Bills that enhance Parliament’s independence in discharging its oversight, legislation and representation functions.
In a statement issued yesterday, Afidep executive director Eliya Zulu states that the reforms will help strengthen democracy in the country.
He said: “These constitutional reforms are a major breakthrough in efforts to improve Malawi’s democratic governance and if assented by the President, they will go a long way in positioning Parliament as a strong Third Arm of Government able to steer accountability and socioeconomic development.”
According to the statement, the key effect of these reforms revolve around elevating and entrenching the Parliamentary Service in the Constitution in the same way that the Civil Service and Judiciary Service are created.
“Secondly, the Parliamentary Services Commission will be a constitutional body responsible for managing the affairs of the parliamentary service, and its membership will be expanded by including two external experts who are not parliamentarians,” it reads further.
The reforms will also enable Parliament to set its own calendar and have its oversight function defined in the Constitution, which will provide for a third sitting of Parliament to focus on examining committee oversight reports and general legislations.
With the reforms, the approved budget of Parliament will become a protected expenditure, giving Parliament autonomy to manage its financial resources.
“The salaries of the Speaker and Deputy Speakers will be protected in the same way that the salaries of the President and Vice-President and Chief Justice and Judiciary officers are protected,” reads the statement in part.
According to Afidep, the Bills, tabled in Parliament as Government Bills, were championed by the Parliamentary Service Commission and the parliamentray Legal Affairs Committee following extensive benchmarking over the past three years on how parliaments in Kenya, Ghana, Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa have achieved similar legal, administrative and financial autonomy.
Speaker of Parliament Catherine Gotani Hara and Leader of the House Richard Chimwendo Banda, who is also Minister of Homeland Security, have since commended parliamentarians for passing the landmark bills.
In their remarks during the closing session of the last seating of Parliament, the two also hailed the Royal Norwegian Embassy for providing financial support to Parliament through technical assistance from Afidep which facilitated the parliamentary autonomy over the past three years.
“Since 2017, Afidep with the help of the Royal Norwegian Embassy have supported the process to Parliament’s autonomy. We will not forget the role the organisation played even when it seemed like the process had stalled and would not see the light of day,” said Chimwendo Banda.
Currently, the Malawi Constitution only provides for the law-making function of Parliament, but not the oversight and representation functions. This hinders Parliament’s performance of oversight, budget appropriation, legislation and representation.
The new constitutional amendments will enable Parliament to effectively perform its critical functions and enhance transparency and accountability to ensure that public resources are well-targeted to sectors that can drive economic growth.
Afidep is a development thinktank that aspires for an Africa where evidence transforms lives. It works towards systemic actions that promote active use of evidence in decision-making to enable the right investments towards the transformation of people’s lives for the better.
This post originally posted here Norway Government & Politics News