Monday, July 15, 2024

Parliament Passes Access to Information (ATI) Bill in Landmark Move Towards Transparency

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In a historic development, Parliament has successfully passed the Access to Information (ATI) Bill, marking a crucial stride towards transparency and accountability in the nation. The bill, a fulfillment of President Hakainde Hichilema’s campaign promise, now awaits the President’s assent to officially become law.

The ATI Bill, which went through its third reading in Parliament this afternoon, seeks to empower the public by providing wider access to information held by government officials. Information and Media Minister and Chief Government Spokesperson Hon. Cornelius Mweetwa, MP, underscored the government’s commitment to fostering public access to information during a press briefing.

Minister Mweetwa highlighted that the legislation is designed to ensure that public resources genuinely benefit citizens. He emphasized that the new law would compel public officers to share information widely, moving away from previous practices of limited disclosure.

“The law will compel public officers to give public information to the broadest audience possible. For example, instead of an officer who is employing staff or procuring goods for a public body only disclosing the information to personal contacts, he or she will be required by law to publicize the information beyond friends and relatives,” explained Minister Mweetwa.

During the parliamentary proceedings, Minister of Justice Mulambo Haimbe stressed that the ATI Bill reflects the government’s commitment to Constitutionalism and the rule of law. He further noted that exemptions, such as information deemed sensitive to national security, were justified in the interest of safeguarding the country’s well-being.

Minister Mweetwa acknowledged the challenges faced in the past regarding the enactment of such legislation, citing concerns over government procedures, privacy invasion, and exposure of corrupt practices by public officials. However, he reassured the public that the new administration had revived the process with enhanced stakeholder consultation and benchmarking against international best practices.

“The New Dawn Government is committed to transparency and accountability as premised among the hallmarks of good governance. And in keeping with the electoral commitment made during the campaigns, we have brought this law to the House just as desired by the people of Zambia,” affirmed Minister Mweetwa.

Following successful debates and considerations, the ATI Bill underwent the second reading and committee stages without amendments before being read for the third time. Once President Hakainde Hichilema assents to the bill, Zambia will join the ranks of other African nations, including Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Angola, and Zimbabwe, where ATI laws are already in place. This landmark legislation is anticipated to strengthen democratic practices and empower Zambian citizens with valuable information for active participation in governance.

18 COMMENTS

  1. This is great move by the government. Citizens need to be patient with the current government. I think they have achieved so much under the circumstances i.e. CDF, Teacher and medical personnel recruitment, Free education, behaved cadres etc. I know we have an issue with fuel and exchange rate. Check the region and you will notice all countries are affected.

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    • #Doug
      Indeed UPND have done good to have pushed for this Bill, now to become Law. That said, if you went to school, hospitals and police station in Zambia, it means you were taught and attended by teachers, medical & police professionals. Since 1964 all previous governments have recruited teachers, medical staff & police As people go into workforce, thereafter new generation of teachers, medical & police professionals come in. It’s the duty of every government to recruit such professionals. One of the reasons UPND recruited large numbers of professionals is partly because MMD & PF had been building health centres and schools across the country which needed professionals. We must not make it seem as if its only UPND that has recruited.

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    • @@ OBSERVER

      As far as UPND are concerned no other government has recruited teachers, nurses and doctors. Only UPND has done this. Good point though, to have brought it…….

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    • Funny thing is that teachers, policemen, doctors, nurses have been dying and retiring but we still have these professional people in our institutions. Do they just drop from heaven. Nay! They are recruited… the only difference is that that the current government is using the exercise as a political tool….. actually my hospital is overstaffed but services have become poorer than before.
      Same with pension payouts…many still remain waiting but we’re told all have been cleared…they parade one or two to convince me that pensioners have been paid.

  2. Despite the hype, the Bill has just legalized the inaccessibility to information because there are more don’t than do

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  3. Poorly reported. What will change? How can a journalist or citizen obtain and diseminate government information differently from before? Does this make Dead NBC stop prioritising the President as the main source of information in Zambia? Can a Minister or PS be legally requested to inform citizens everything about the new contract for KCM?
    What is the meaning of “..will be required by law to publicize the information beyond friends and relatives,”
    You mean previously friends and relatives were allowed to receive Public or civil service information?

  4. While the passage of the ATI Bill is undoubtedly a commendable achievement, it is important to acknowledge that its impact will be limited unless proactive measures are taken to ensure that the information is effectively disseminated to the public. Merely enacting legislation is not enough; the administration must also prioritize efforts to educate citizens about their rights under the ATI Bill and facilitate their access to the information they seek.

    • @Chisebwe most citizens are scared of exercising their rights in Zambia. Thats why DeadNBC starts its news bulletin with President so and so has drank tea today….” The staff are all scared of government so they have to shower praises on president and his cabinet. This law will be there but people wont adhere to it

  5. To truly add value to the ATI Bill, the administration should embark on a comprehensive public awareness campaign, leveraging various communication channels to reach citizens across the country. This could involve conducting workshops, developing user-friendly information portals, and collaborating with civil society organizations to ensure that the benefits of the legislation reach all segments of society.

  6. While the passage of the ATI Bill represents a positive development, its true impact will depend on the administration’s ability to effectively take it to the people. By proactively engaging with citizens, ensuring access to information, and fostering a culture of openness, the government can realize the full potential of the legislation and strengthen democratic governance in the country

    • @Collins Teembo Political parties may not owe all of us this information but like it or not government departments do! They are there to serve all citizens. They need to be transparent. Thats why we pay tax to govt. Unlike political parties who first serve their members

  7. There should be also a bill on Honest and Integrity on aspiring presidential and Mps in elections. Whoever lies to the electorates should be recalled and reprimanded. We have tolerated politicians to come on a platform of lies and fail to deliver. They promise a moon and yet in actual sense they are all lies. So all politicians who promise and fail to fulfill should be subjected to this law.Voters have been voting on lies that have not been fulfilled in form of promises.

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