GOVT CLARIFIES PRESIDENTIAL POWERS AND FUNCTIONS

By Lackson Kanyoza

Government through the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs has clarified how the president can delegate his functions and powers.

 

Dr Lazarus Chakwera: Sent questions to the President
Dr Lazarus Chakwera: Sent questions to the President

This comes barely days when president peter Mutharika delegated some of the questions to his ministers which were asked by some oppositional members in the parliament.

The four MPs who sent questions to the president were The Leader of Opposition, Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, Mzimba south-west MP and former Vice President Khumbo Kachali, Rumphi East MP Kamlepo Kalua and Nkhotakota South East legislator Everson Makowa.

But President Peter Mutharika said he will not be personally available in parliament to answer the questions which were sent to him through the office of the speaker.

In a press statement released yesterday and signed by Minister of Justice and Constitutional affairs Samuel Batson Tembenu, faulted the Nation and Daily Times for going further in misleading the masses.

“The Daily Times and Nation newspapers carried front page articles entitled “Mutharika dodges MPs” and Mutharika refuses to answer MPs questions respectively”. The two stories are quoting the announcement which the speaker of the National Assembly, Rt Hon. Richard Msowoya made in the National Assembly to the effect that the president had delegated to the respective line ministers the questions which had been asked by some members of parliament pursuant to section 89 (4) of the constitution. The nation newspaper has gone to the extent of imputing that by such delegation, the president has flouted the constitution he swore to uphold.”

Tembenu said that section 89 of the constitution deals with powers, duties and functions of the president.

“Subsection (3) and (4) of the section provide for questions to the president. Section 98(6) of the same constitution expressly states that “the powers and functions of the president shall be exercised by him or her personally or by a Government official to whom the president has delegated such powers in writing’’.

The statement further reads that “while the constitution is clear that there are certain specific powers and functions which can only be exercised by the president alone, it does not restrict the president from delegating some of those functions if he chooses to do so. In the case of the questions which were asked by members of parliament, it is clear that the response to them can be best provided by the line ministers. The president

The president was, therefore perfectly entitled to delegate to the said ministers, and in so doing, he was acting within the law. Indeed, it is inconceivable to expect that the president would be able to deal with each and every issue or question personally. Hence, delegation is a necessary part of his constitutional functions because it affords him opportunity to deal with other equally important matters of state.

“With response to the parliamentary questions, the business committee fully appreciated that the president could delegate his functions. Standing orders 70 and 201 of the National Assembly regulate the manner in which questions to the president are handled. Except for questions under 89(3) of the constitution, standing order 201 leaves open the possibility for the president to delegate.

Meanwhile, Tembenu urged the general public who comment on matters of public interest to do it with fairness and accuracy.

“Government is therefore, appealing to all those who comment on matters of public interest to do so in a manner that is fair and accurate. Quoting one provision of the constitution in isolation from the other similar provisions has the potential to mislead the masses. Fairness demands that, those who have the podium to comment on public issues must do so in a manner which is balanced. To interpret the speaker’s announcement that the president had delegated the ministers to answer his question as a refusal by the president is grossly misleading”, he said.

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