Press Association of Zambia (PAZA) president Andrew Sakala says government should publish the Access to Information Bill so that stakeholders assist with identification of lacunas in order to speed up the enactment process.

And MISA Zambia Chairperson Hellen Mwale says government’s inertia to enact the ATI Bill shows lack of commitment towards facilitating citizens’ right to access information.

In an interview, Sakala advised government to be open about challenges it was facing in the implementation of the ATI Bill so that capable stakeholders could step in to assist.

“The last time the government spoke about this bill, the official communication was that they had taken it to the Ministry of Justice and then the Ministry of Justice had contracted a legal consultant to clean up the bill and the main reason was that they said that the bill would be in conflict with other pieces of legislation. So they wanted to make sure that when the bill is taken to Parliament and finally enacted, it was not in conflict with the other exiting pieces of legislation. But from that time, we’ve never had a report and that report from that legal consultant has never been published. So our view is that let the government publish this bill so that all stakeholders can contribute in helping to clear the so-called lacunas,” said Sakala.

“Stakeholders may have the solution to the so-called lacunas. Then what are these same lacunas? Because people now are just using this term ‘lacuna’ without even knowing what it means. so I think it’s important that government comes clear and point out exactly what these problems are, the difficulties with the bill. Rather than always using a general term to say ‘lacuna lacuna’. What is it? What is the problem and specifically which part and section of the bill has got gaps which need to be filled? So if they published that, the stakeholders would then contribute and when stakeholders contribute, they will help to find solutions before they take that bill to Parliament.”

And in a statement, MISA Zambia expressed disappointment at government’s continued delay to take the Access to Information (ATI) Bill to Parliament for enactment.

“We make this statement based on media reports quoting Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services Permanent Secretary Chanda Kasolo, stating that Access to Information (ATI) Bill will not be tabled in the next parliament sitting. Earlier last year, Minister of Justice Given Lubinda was quoted in the media on 22nd February, 2018, saying that the ATI Bill would be tabled in the next sitting of parliament in that year; a move that was hailed by many stakeholders including MiSA. MiSA Zambia is highly concerned with the continued postponements by government to enact the ATI Bill and we are concerned that 2019 is starting on similar pronouncements. The inertia clearly indicates government’s lack of commitment towards facilitating citizens’ right to access information which is critical to holding government accountable, participating in decision making, making informed decisions and fighting corruption. We are therefore calling for more transparency in development of the law and more concrete timelines as regards enactment of the ATI bill,” stated Mwale.