FORMER Minister of Transport and Communications William Harrington says there is need to repeal and amend the inquiries act to include a provision which compels the President to seek Parliament’s approval before appointing any commission of inquiry.
And Harrington also wants the law to be amended so that the President can be required to publish findings of any inquiry.
In a statement, Harrington said currently, the President was abusing the powers granted to him in the inquiries act.
“Recently President Lungu announced in parliament that he was considering to appoint a commission of inquiry on the incidences of gassing and resultant in deaths through justice. The announcement has attracted great controversy. There is need for parliament to repeal and amend inquiries act to include a provision that a President must seek the approval of parliament before appointing any commission of inquiry. The act must also make it compulsory and mandatory that upon presentation of its report to a President, the report must be simultaneously presented to speaker of the National Assembly and the general public. There is urgent need to remove absolute discretionary powers bestowed on a President in the current inquiries acts as experience shows that these powers risk being abused. Non publication of commission of inquiry reports quiet understandably creates a public perception that government has “something to hide” and this should be eliminated,” Harrington stated.
“I must emphasize that the provisions being proposed to amend the inquiries act will go a long way in reducing discretionary Presidential powers and thereby eliminate the risk of abuse of authority of office as this is the current instant where President Lungu is considering to appoint a commission of inquiry on the gassing and deaths of citizens caused by related mob justice. The proposed commission of inquiry has so far been met with strong objection from progressive Civil Society Organizations ,opposition political parties and a cross section of concerned citizens on grounds that it is just another costly, time wasting and unnecessary project,”
Harrington said the reports must not be at the discretion of the President adding that the money used on the commissions was taxpayer’s money.
“The need for publication of commission of inquiry reports cannot be over emphasized. This should not and must not be at the discretion of the President especially considering the fact that taxpayer’s money is used to fund costly commission of inquiries and the Zambian tax payers must be direct beneficiaries of their hard earned money. My proposal is important and necessary because experience has shown that reports of several commissions have not been made public to date. Once can site the trafigura old deal inquiry, the maize export inquiry and the Dr Rodger Chongwe led inquiry on the so called Mongu disturbances amongst others. All these reports have not been published and are gathering dust somewhere at State House I presume.” stated Harrington.