By Innocent Nazombe
In a bid to enhance citizen participation and accountability in public health service delivery, Chitipa District Council seating on 20th July, 2017 adopted the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for Proactive Disclosure of Information in the health sector. This momentous step towards free flow of information between health service providers and citizens in general means that Chitipa District becomes the first in Malawi to make deliberate move to promote the right to access to information which is central to good governance, meaningful participation and informed decision making. The SOPs aim at promoting access to information which is a birth right; they spell out the procedures in granting access to information; they also assign responsibilities to various public officers who are custodians of government information. Through the SOPs the Chitipa District health sector has among others committed itself to be releasing funding and expenditure reports and the status of public health service delivery on monthly basis.
Speaking on behalf of the District Commission Mr Makina delighted in having such a document to guide information flow which is fully implemented will promote trust between the Council Secretariat at the entire people of Chitipa. “There is usually a veil of secrecy surrounding the dealings of the secretariat because we are not usually sure whether or not the information we reveal will be used in good faith. Usually, calls for information from the general public were coming as a reaction to some rumours or claims about malpractices. In that regard, these calls were not usually granted as they were viewed as mere witch hunting.” He hailed the document since it would clear suspicions that people usually have.
The adoption of the SOPs means that CCJP with funding from Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa will now go ahead to reproduce them and train those who are to implement and those who are to benefit from the process on the best way of utilizing the SOPs to ensure continuous flow of information and participatory decision making processes in response to pertinent issues affecting public health service delivery. The SOPs are not merely an administrative tool but an empowering one in the sense that it would instill trust between the duty bearers and right holders/ service users due to transparency or openness in the decision making process and service delivery. To this effect, community mobilization for noble health related causes will be easy as citizens will make contributions towards things they know and decisions that have been arrived at together.