LILONGWE-(MaraviPost) -Malawi’s powerful religious grouping, the Public Affairs Committee (PAC), on Friday reached a common census with Local Government Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa on the Local Government (Amendment) Bill, 2015, that among others seeks to remove voting powers of Members of Parliament (MPs) at district council meetings.
Through the Local Government Law Reforms, PAC is championing the improvement of efficiency and effectiveness of local governing authorities, and align local governance to the 1998 Decentralization Policy.
There are two out of 17 proposed amendments in the 2010 Local Government Act (LGA), including appointment of District Commissioners (DCs), Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) that are to be appointed by councils with recommendation of the Local Government Service Commission on a fixed-term contract, instead of the current unfixed-term contract and pensionable terms.
The voting powers of Members of Parliament (MPs) provision on local councils, is seen as giving overriding powers to the national entities, that must be removed.
In a dialogue meeting PAC had with Minister Nankhumwa alongside his backroom staff from the ministry in Lilongwe, saw the two sides agreeing to work together to propel the draft amended Bill to pass through the House of Parliament in the November.
Nankhumwa came to the meeting with a prepared statement feedback from cabinet committees that suggested that the removal of MPs voting powers, was premature; the committees argue that councils have no capacity to execute their duties without the law makers.
The Minister went further and suggested that the Act amendment should wait until such time when the local councils were fully technically prepared to carry out tasks in the absent of the legislators.
PAC’s Chairperson Reverend Felix Chingota however, downplayed the fears of lack of capacities in local councils on development oversight.
Reverend Chingota reminded the Minister that the governing Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP 2014 Presidential manifesto stated: “The DPP has no problems with the proposed amendment of the Local Government Act and Decentralization Policy.”
At the end of the dialogue, Minister Nankhumwa was convinced that the Bill should be tabled in the November 2017 Parliament sitting.
“The process of consultation, should continue with key stakeholders including MPs, cabinet committee on the matter. This will help us iron out all the sticky issues highlighted in the Bill; so that come November Parliament sitting, the Act should see the light from all members of the House,” said Nankhumwa.
Chingota told the gathering that PAC will soon engage the cabinet committee, political parties; United Democratic Front (UDF), People’s Party (PP), DPP and MPs on the amendment proposals. This is to be accomplished before the November House session.
“We are very happy with the response the Local Government Minister gave to PAC, after he was convinced with PAC support on the amendments. We are geared to meet all the key stakeholders on the Bill. With an assurance from the Minister and leader of opposition Dr Lazarus Chakwera gave, we hope the Bill will not be shot down when tabled in Parliament,” assured Chingota.
Early this month, PAC engaged the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) President Chakwera on the Bill; he assured the PAC delegation that his Party will support it once tabled in Parliament.
Most MPs, including cabinet ministers are reluctant to accept the proposed reforms for fear of the unknown, particularly on power struggle between the National and local governing bodies.
However the religious body, stood its ground on the need to on the law review that effective decentralization is manifested in Malawi.