PARLIAMENT has passed the Access to Information (ATI) Bill.
The bill went through third reading in Parliament this afternoon.
This means that what now remains for the bill becoming law is President Hakainde Hichilema assenting to it.
Minister of Information and Media Cornelius Mweetwa said the decision by the Executive to table the proposed legislation in the House, was a fulfillment of a campaign promise made by President Hichilema prior to the 2021 elections.
Mr. Mweetwa stated that previous regimes had shelved the document after assuming power.
“And while we cannot speak for previous regimes madam Speaker, we can speculate that fears around enacting such legislation include fear of opening up too much of government procedures, invasion of privacy or indeed exposure of corrupt practices by public officials,” Mr. Mweetwa said.
He disclosed that the New Administration resurrected the process to enact the law, soon after forming government, with enhanced stakeholder consultation and benchmarking on best practices from countries that had enacted the law.
“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,” he said.
Mr. Mweetwa added that government is comfortable with the proposed law because the new administration was a proponent of ensuring the public resources benefited the citizens.
“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 publicise the information beyond friends and relatives,” he explained.
Mr. Mweetwa urged Members of Parliament to work with the Government in sensitizing communities on how to ensure that the law benefitted them in accessing information of public interest.
Meanwhile, Minister of Justice Mulambo Haimbe said the Bill represented the government’s commitment to Constitutionalism and the rule of law.
He disclosed that exemptions such as military sensitive information were justified in the interest of protecting national security and territorial integrity.
After the debate, the bill successfully underwent the second reading and committee stages without amendment before being read for the third time.
In the region, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Angola, and Zimbabwe have the ATI law in place.