MINISTRY of Information and Media Permanent Secretary Kennedy Kalunga says News Diggers Newspaper will fund the Access to Information (ATI) Bill consultation exercise.

Last week, Kalunga announced that government had decided to take the bill to all 10 provinces for consultations.

But some critics like Laura Miti argued that the decision would just result in a waste of money, suggesting that taking the bill straight to parliament was a more desirable route.

“The Ministry of Information wants to take the Access to Information Bill round the country for consultations. Why? What is so special about this Bill? What a stunning waste of money that would be at a time when the economy is barely breathing. Sounds to me like someone wants allowances. Gosh, this curse of allowances. There are decisions that people in public office make that are so self interested. The head hurts considering them,” said Miti in a Facebook post.

“Another is in the CDF guidelines; each Constituency will buy a brand new 4×4. Is that a priority? How long will that car last before it is on stones? Even Lusaka Central and Nkana need 4×4? Is that the best use of K25.7(million) CDF right now? 4×4 placed in the guidelines so that there is a chance to say what we need are boreholes or desks. Yayi Mwandi. Take the ATI straight to Parliament like every Bill. Remove that car that will gobble up so much from CDF. That is if this government is half serious when it talks about ending wastage of government resources.”

However, Kalunga justified the pending exercise in an interview and when asked where the resources to see this through would come from, he said “Diggers” would fund it.

“Diggers will finance this process. Why are you running from responsibility? You are part and parcel of this. I want you to write this that the PS has said Diggers will finance this because they are capable and they are in commercial business. We support them as a Ministry by buying papers from them on a daily basis. So you have the money. If you give us K1, The Mast gives us K1 as well as the others, we will own it and we will move from there. We all contribute something then we will move,” Kalunga said.

He said government was not dragging its feet on the ATI Bill.

“The consultations were done under the PF government. Why didn’t they implement it? The new dawn government has been there for how long? For six months. So it ought to be owned by the people and the 18 million people should give a voice to it. The 18 million people should give a voice and not the media houses only. The one pursuing it are the media and it ought to be owned by the citizens of Zambia. The 18 million people need to be consulted and they should give a say. They should own it. Why didn’t you query the PF government for failing to enact it for the last 10 years? The new dawn government in six months wants to involve the 18 million Zambian people. That is what we are saying and there needs to be ownership of it,” Kalunga said.

“The new dawn is not dragging its feet. How long has it been there? Less than a year. That is not a justification. Other people have been there for 10 years. The new dawn government is not dragging its feet. So everyone should participate. The people that drag their feet are those that failed to enact it for 10 years. Let us compare and contrast 10 years and six months. Governments have changed and the way things are being looked at is totally different. There is a change of government and it wants to carry people along. Everyone should have a say. The new dawn government is doing it differently.”

Kalunga insisted that every citizen needed a chance to air their views.

“The media has spoken and now citizens must also air their voice. The church came to see us at my office at the Ministry. They raised concerns that the majority of stakeholders have not given their input. So what do we do as a listening government? We listen. We are a listening government by taking it to stakeholders who will give their input. That is all we are saying that citizens should give their input. The few sectors that came and the media houses have spoken but let the citizens of Zambia give their input. Is there anything wrong with consulting? Let the citizens of Zambia give their input,” Kalunga said.

“Let us not be like PF who did not want to consult. They closed the door on you guys and could not allow you. For us, within six months we are able to bring people on board who are giving their input. So let us allow every process so that the citizens of Zambia participate. We need to give them a listening ear. There should be a sense of belonging. Most of the issues will be reviewed. You know that is democracy, by allowing people. If you want free media and freedom of expression, the media needs to allow the citizens to give an input. Does the media want to stifle the citizens of Zambia? As an institution, we say we will carry the media and people of Zambia to give their views.”

Kalunga said he could not indicate the exact period when the consultations would be concluded.

“We are just six months in government. Everything shall be done. People failed to handle these issues. People in the past failed, they were so scared but we are not scared. Each province has their meetings and we are still consulting on the road map and how to go about it. The process has begun where we are engaging various provinces. First you need to look at the process and how the provinces will conduct their meetings then the time frame will be communicated thereafter. We are assuring the nation that the process has begun. We are only six months in government. I cannot tell you and I will be lying if I say that it will be done on this day. We just had a meeting just three days ago. We are engaging the 10 provinces who will have to give us their calendars. That is when we shall determine how long,” said Kalunga.