GPG delivers specialist technical advice through a core group of retained Associates who are former Ministers, Members of Parliament, senior civil servants or parliamentary staff, and academics. We have built long-lasting relationships with Associates which we seek to highlight in this series of personal profiles.
Global Partners Governance has been delivering a capacity-building project for the Parliament of Malawi. This year, we delivered training sessions to MPs and parliamentary staff with the support of local experts in the oversight and legislative functions of parliaments. Roosevelt Gondwe was one of them. In this profile, he discusses his collaboration with GPG and his own extensive experience working with Parliaments.
Describe your area of work. What encouraged you to work in this sector?
I provide consulting services in parliamentary practice and procedures. In particular, I focus on capacity building for parliamentary staff and Members of Parliament. Since I retired from parliamentary service in August 2015, I have facilitated workshops for parliamentary staff in Malawi and across the wider region. I also delivered post-election seminars for political leadership in Parliament and Members of Parliament in Malawi.
My training topics have centred around parliamentary committees, including Business Committee; chamber support and work; and international parliamentary organisations working with the Malawi Parliament.
I was encouraged to work in this sector by the reality of the institution of Parliament in Malawi. In particular, in recent years, elections have brought in an influx of new members who outnumber established MPs. At such times, the new members’ need for training in the work of parliament cannot be overemphasised, especially when new members have to perform tasks touching on oversight, legislation, and representation as envisaged by the laws of Malawi.
Similarly, when new parliamentary staff is recruited by the Parliamentary Service Commission to replace those who have retired or left for various reasons, they require training on the nature and delivery of parliamentary work, which can be delivered by those of us who have served in the institution for quick assimilation.
Give us a short overview of what you consider to have been a key moment in your career. What brought you where you are today?
A key moment in my parliamentary career was when the Malawi Parliament enacted the Parliamentary Service Act in 1998, which separated its staff from the general civil service and tasked a Parliamentary Service Commission to oversee recruitments, discipline and promotions, and any other matter concerning staff.
I was involved in the discussions of the Parliamentary Service bill with the Cabinet Committee on the instruction of the Speaker. When the bill was tabled in Parliament and passed, parliament staff celebrated. We could now train staff and retain them, and doing so, develop expertise in staff, in particularly for committee, and table without losing them to other government institutions.
Under the service, I participated in a study by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association on the Finance and Administration of Parliament in May 2005 in Zanzibar, Tanzania, which among other matters considered the corporate governance of Parliaments in terms of administration and finance. The service brought me where I am today in the sense that I was able to live and work in Parliament, with the exception of a short break, after which I returned into service and retired.
What work have you done with GPG, and what drove you to work with our organisation?
I have co-facilitated a capacity building workshop as an Associate for GPG in Blantyre in April 2023 under its parliamentary support programme for the Parliament of Malawi, delivered in partnership with Democracy International and for USAID.
The sessions touched on dealing with recommendations in committees, conducting committee effective inquiries and public hearings, and strengthening parliamentary oversight through committee reports.
Share your thoughts on a relevant national news story which stood out to you recently.
A recent news story that caught my attention was published by the Malawian newspaper The Nation on 15 May 2023. It reported that the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) defended its directive that requests from parliamentary committees for State Owned Enterprises (SOE) to appear for hearings should in future be approved by the Office of the President and Cabinet beforehand.
Parliament summons SOEs to account for the resources they use, as required by law. The issue which led to the directive appears to be that parliamentary oversight is partly drawing on the resources of SOEs and not wholly owned by Parliament.
It is feared that the new directive will cause delays in starting and completing committee inquiries, as SOEs will be able to avoid hearings if approval from the OPC was not yet processed or delivered. It should, however, bring about a new development for the parliamentary budget. Planned committee work should have a budget line for sittings in Lilongwe, the capital, and for site visits to SOEs.