Citizens for Justice envisions a Malawi where governance – the processes of decision-making and implementation by those in authority – is participatory, consensus-oriented, accountable, transparency, responsive, effective, efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law.

Citizens for Justice envisions a Malawi where governance – the processes of decision-making and implementation by those in authority – is participatory, consensus-oriented, accountable, transparency, responsive, effective, efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law. Together with our partners and stakeholders we want to ensure that corruption is minimised, the views of minorities are taken into account and the voices of Malawi’s most vulnerable are reflected in decision-making. We are several initiatives to promote the society we imagine.

Access to Justice

Building on ‘Implementation of the Legal Aid Act in Malawi’ carried out in 2014 and 2015 with funding from the World Justice Project, Citizens for Justice partnered with Irish Rule of Law International and Paralegal Advisory Service Institute (PASI) in 2016 to implement a 3-year project ‘Access to Justice System’. The project focuses on strengthening the criminal justice system in Malawi based on the principle of due process and human rights. The purpose is to establish an environment where the rights of accused people are protected as a result of the provision of legal aid services as well as being protected and respected in a more sustainable way due to increased capacity of key institutions in the criminal justice system. The project seeks to ensure the enjoyment of due process rights including access to legal aid and restorative justice to persons held in police custody and detainees and also to empower community members in Malawi to access information about the rights of accused persons and the criminal justice sector and to claim their rights. Some of the activities in this project will include; radio programmes, Camp Courts, provision of Legal Aid, will also have legal aid clinics where community members will be able to access legal advice. The other thing is community sensitization on justice practices. And also CFJ and its partners will conduct trainings for magistrates to equip them with adequate knowledge and capacity to implement their responsibilities towards people in conflict with the law.

Open Government Partnership

Malawi joined the Open Government Partnership in 2013. This international platform will support the work of our domestic reformers in making our government more open, accountable and responsive to citizens. Citizens for Justice have been one of the leading civil society organisations since Malawi’s journey started. In October 2014, we helped organised the inception workshop for the Open Government Partnership and continue to work hand-in-hand with the government. Recently we finalised the National Action Plan as a nation and are working to see these progressive open government reforms realised.

For more information, take a look at the Malawi Open Government Partnership page.

Open Contracting

As part of our efforts to open government, Citizens for Justice has commenced work on open contracting in Official Development Assistance and procurement in the extractive industries. These sectors are important for various reasons. An analysis of Official Development Assistance procurement is crucial because Malawi is a heavily indebted country. In order to pry itself from the excessive debt trap many least developed countries are in, it must curb levels of corruption in all sectors of society but most significantly within the various ministries in the government. Diversification of the economy from one that is agriculture based to one that incorporates the extractive industries and other sectors, in Malawi’s case, mining and oil and gas, is another approach that can be instrumental in Malawi’s attempts to lessen an excessive debt burden. Our work is being implemented with Hivos .

Budget and Expenditure Transparency

Public service delivery and good governance hinges on the wise use of public finances that is responsive to citizens. All citizens need to know what is in the national and district budget and should be able to participate and hold those in authority accountable for the budget. Malawi is committed to budget transparency – even the Constitution (III § 13(o)) highlights the importance of “measures, which will guarantee accountability, transparency, personal integrity and financial probity”.

At the end of 2014, Citizens for Justice with the Office of the President and the Cabinet embarked on a project in nine districts to promote the efficient utilisation of Local Council resources, to enhance delivery of stated objectives, priorities and services at the local level, and to engage citizens in budgeting and expenditure. The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is financing this project.

At present in Malawi, oversight institutions, such as the National Audit Office, face capacity constraints in affecting budget approval and oversight, the National Local Government Finance Committee is erratically and insufficiently funded and Local Councils themselves lack funding, capacity and equipment for financial management. This results in low community participation in budget processes. To begin, budget and expenditure information for each district will be consolidated. Then the project will include an orientation of Local Councils and stakeholders, including Members of Parliament, Councillors, Community-Based Organisations, Traditional Authorities and Youth Representatives, in budget and expenditure analysis in order for the group to conduct the analysis. This will provide a space for the Council to engage with citizens to discuss the amount of money received, how money was budgeted, how money was spent and the impact on service delivery for the District.

Accountability Institutions

This Constitution more especially in section 12 is founded upon the principles of accountability:

  • all legal and political authority of the State derives from the people of Malawi and shall be exercised in accordance with this Constitution solely to serve and protect their interests;
  • all persons responsible for the exercise of powers of State do so on trust and shall only exercise such power to the extent of their lawful authority and in accordance with their responsibilities to the people of Malawi;
  • the authority to exercise power of State is conditional upon the sustained trust of the people of Malawi and that trust can only be maintained through open, accountable and transparent Government and informed democratic choice;
  • the inherent dignity and worth of each human being requires that the State and all persons shall recognise and protect human rights and afford the fullest protection to the rights and views of all individuals, groups and minorities whether or not they are entitled to vote;
  • as all persons have equal status before the law, the only justifiable limitations to lawful rights are those necessary to ensure peaceful human interaction in an open and democratic society; and
  • all institutions and persons shall observe and uphold this Constitution and the rule of law and no institution or person shall stand above the law.

The Government of Malawi created several accountability mechanisms and institutions to deal with issues of accountability, transparency and anti-corruption as part of its efforts in promoting a corrupt-free society. However, critics still question the effectiveness of those enforcing mechanisms and institutions. While corruption is a global phenomenon, its effects are felt more in poor and underdeveloped countries where the poor become poorer as wealth is diverted into private hands. Furthermore, the systems meant to ensure that politicians, service providers and policy makers are held accountable have failed the citizenry as they hold little or no trust at all for such institutions.

Since corruption involves plundering of public resources meant for social welfare services and robs a country of its capital for investment, which is necessary for economic development, it is essential to strengthen these institutions in order to create functioning democratic governance. At the core of CFJ’s governance theme is the lobbying for a corrupt-free society through advocacy around the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Corrupt Practices Act (CPA) and other notable accountability institutions in Malawi. CFJ believes that institutions that promote accountability and defend public interest should be capacitated to fight the vice against corruption.

CFJ’s four main pillars on accountability institutions are:

  • Advocating for the independence of accountability institutions

Organise training workshops and seminars with key players involved in accountability institutions such as the ACB, Office of the Ombudsman, National Audit Office (NAO), Malawi Human Rights Commission and Internal Auditing in order to spark dialogue on independence, accountability and lobby for new mechanisms to prevent and penalise corruption.

  • Deepening Judiciary effectiveness in battling corruption

The Judiciary plays a key role in the battle against corruption. Promotion of key policy recommendations aimed at strengthening judicial capacity and efficiencies in the fight against corruption must be examined.

  • Emphasising on behaviour change

Facilitating public awareness programmes with the ACB emphasising on behaviour change aimed at all sectors.

  • Promoting coordination, accountability and harmonisation of accountability institutions’ activities and efforts

The activity encourages better communication, cooperation, coordination, knowledge and information exchange, technical debate forms, public advocacy and public awareness forums through structured, issue-based networking amongst the institutions as well as with like-minded organisations and institutions globally. This will create better flow of information and ensure that social and legal advocacy is easy facilitated

We are currently conducting an audit of Accountability Institutions in Malawi to inform future activities as well as gather a baseline on current opportunities for citizens to engage with these institutions.

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