The proposed Kenya Health Knowledge Translation Platform: its adopted model is designed to position it for success

This is the first in a series of three blogs discussing the Kenya Health Knowledge Translation Platform (KTP). The follow-up blog will highlight lessons from existing KTPs for consideration in the establishment of the Kenya Health KTP. The final blog highlights how the Kenya Health KTP builds on recent efforts to improve evidence-informed decision-making in Kenya’s health sector.

Background

A Knowledge Translation Platform (KTP) brings together policymakers, researchers and other stakeholders, including the civil society, for evidence-informed deliberations on identified health priorities. It creates and nurtures links that draw the research and policy communities closer together to ultimately create cycles of policy-informed evidence and evidence-informed policy. The concept of the KTP was initiated and promoted by the World Health Organization beginning in 2005, resulting in numerous national and regional KTPs across the globe. By 2012, twelve countries in Africa either had a national KTP (Cameroon, Malawi, Nigeria, Uganda and Zambia) or were part of a regional KTP e.g. the Regional East African Community Health Policy Initiative (REACH-PI) comprising of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, although only active for two years from 2006 to 2008.

On 1 March 2018, the Ministry of Health (MoH) convened a stakeholder meeting to discuss the establishment of the Kenya Health and Research Observatory (KHRO). The KHRO aims to promote evidence-informed decision-making (EIDM) in the health sector by improving access and use of research and health information. It is thought of as “a web-based portal designed to facilitate multi-stakeholder collaboration and partnership in accessing and using information for strengthening national health information systems, as well as serving as a repository of the best available information, and provide tools to strengthen monitoring of health status and trends”.

One of three platforms being proposed to be hosted on the KHRO is the Kenya Health Knowledge Translation Platform (KH-KTP), which will “consolidate all health research conducted on Kenya and facilitate discussions and translation of this research by key policy actors to enable its uptake in decision-making in the health sector”.

As part of the deliberation on what to consider when establishing a KTP, AFIDEP was invited to provide insights on the role of KTP in promoting EIDM in the Kenya health sector. What follows is my analysis of the model adopted by the Kenya Health KTP and its potential for success in the context of the evidence-base on KTPs in Cameroon (a);(b), Malawi, Nigeria, Uganda (a);(b) and Zambia.

Proposed structure/model of the Kenya KTP in relation to existing models

A KTP may take several different forms, each with their advantages and disadvantages. It may be a web-based entity or it may be located in a conventional office. Web-based KTPs rely on motivated users, which is difficult to generate in the absence of regular awareness raising/communication activities. On the other hand, KTPs operated from an office and engaged in implementing knowledge translation activities incur high costs, but promote and improve interaction and collaboration among researchers and policymakers and evidence-informed discussions.

The Kenya KTP is adopting a combination of the two as it is proposed to have:

  1. an online repository of local health research; and
  2. a non-online component focused on creating and nurturing links among policymakers, researchers and academic institutions, and other research-users to enable the translation and use of data and research evidence in decision-making.

The combined model is common among the other national KTPs in the African region.

KTPs can also either be health sector-wide as is being proposed for the Kenya KTP or they can be issue-focused. For example, Kenya’s National AIDS Control Council (NACC) runs a web-based knowledge sharing platform, called the Maisha Maarifa Research Hub, which focuses on HIV & AIDS, Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) as well as co-morbidities such as Tuberculosis. The Maisha Maarifa Research Hub collates locally generated research findings as well as best practices in programming to inform HIV-related policy and decision-making. To ease its management and enhance performance, health sector-wide KTPs can be organised into communities of practice, which focus on identified priority issues as was done in Cameroon, Malawi and Zambia. The Kenya KTP will adopt this model.

Finally, KTPs can either be housed in a government institution e.g. MoH or other relevant parastatal, academic or research institution (public or private) or a Civil Society Organisation. The Kenya KTP will be housed in the MoH, within the Department of Policy, Planning & Healthcare Financing. The evidence-base on KTPs point to a preference for KTPs to be housed in government or public institutions arguing that due to their close proximity to government policymakers, they tend to have higher buy-in and participation by stakeholders. On the other hand, there is need to take extra steps to ensure the neutrality of KTPs housed in government, the absence of which would compromise its purpose of promoting EIDM.

 The Kenya Health KTP is poised for success, but only if it is adequately funded and staffed. It has adopted the best elements of existing KTPs, in terms of its model:

  • It will be housed in the MoH, which will increase buy-in and chances for securing government funding commitment in addition to other sources of funding
  • It will have both an online repository of local health research as well as organise events that bring together researchers and policymakers to promote EIDM

Read the follow-up blog (Wednesday 14 March 2018) to appreciate some of the soft issues that must be considered in the establishment of the Kenya Health KTP if it is to realise its full potential.

Drivers of African fertility transition in the 21st Century

According to the UN, the world’s human population will reach ten billion by the year 2055. Much of this growth will happen in low- and middle-income countries, where fertility rates (the average number of children a woman will have in her lifetime) are high. Most African governments are already struggling to provide basic services for the current populations. The projected population growth is unsustainable for African economies, not to mention for natural resources and the environment. Both policymakers and researchers – including ourselves – are paying closer attention to the factors underlying these trends.

Nearly 13% of the world’s population lives in sub-Saharan Africa. Projections show that by 2055, this population will be more than 2.3 times the current population of under 1.1 billion. Between 2017 and 2050, the projected increase in the population is as high as 219.7 million in Nigeria, 134.4 million in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 94.7 million in Tanzania and 85.9 million in Ethiopia. The youth population in Africa as a whole is projected to increase from 20% to 35% during the same period.

Low levels of socioeconomic development, low female education, poor access to health services and weak family planning programmes are the major factors that have delayed the transition to low fertility rates in Africa. But it is not all gloom. With increases in modern contraceptive use, fertility rates have started falling in most parts of Africa, with the exception of central and western regions.

It has been shown that where child mortality is high, couples adopt “insurance” or “replacement” strategies to compensate for child losses. When child mortality rates start falling, couples adjust their fertility downwards. A number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa have registered significant falls in child mortality since 1990. Countries that have made progress in lowering birth rates have done so by significantly improving child survival, as well as by empowering women through education and participation in the wage labor market. However, the average under-five mortality rate for the region is still very high with an estimated 82 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to demographic and health surveys.

Low female education is also a key factor in the slow pace of Africa’s fertility transition. Female education delays entry into marriage and increases chances of participation in wage employment, which lowers fertility. Evidence from 22 countries in sub-Saharan Africa shows that increasing women’s education across different socioeconomic groups is very effective in reducing overall fertility levels. While the economically privileged attain higher education and have fewer children, the effects gradually trickle down to the less privileged through the diffusion of ideas, such as smaller family size, and social development. However, numerous demographic studies have shown that a few years of schooling are not sufficient for meaningful fertility reduction since such couples abandon traditional forms of child spacing, such as postpartum abstinence, without adopting the use of modern methods of contraception consistently.

Programmes looking to change behavior and attitude towards socially constructed practices are important. Cultural norms and preferences for large families are still prevalent in Africa, but these attitudes diminish with female education and empowerment. Adolescent childbearing is also rooted in cultural beliefs in some communities in Africa. High teenage childbearing and child marriages, that is before 18 years, ultimately lead to high fertility. There is a need for policymakers and stakeholders to focus on an integrated investment framework with a particular focus on universal access to contraceptives, longer periods in school, as well as girls’ and women’s empowerment.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed by the global community in 2015 could have a great impact on achieving sustained fertility reduction. In particular, if significant progress is made in SDG 1 (no poverty); SDG 2 (good health and wellbeing); SDG 4 (quality education); and SDG 5 (gender equality), including target 5.6 to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, then many of the factors described above will be addressed.

Put simply, investing in girls’ education, ending poverty, achieving gender equality, investing in good health services to lower child mortality, and ensuring that all who need access to contraception receive good quality services will go a long way to addressing the rapid growth of the human population.

This article was originally published on the IISD SDG Knowledge Hub

How Kenya can attain universal health coverage

When it comes to the cost of medical care, a popular saying goes that majority of Kenyans are one medical emergency away from poverty. It is therefore not surprising that Universal Health Coverage (UHC), one of President Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda, has quickly gained traction relative to the other three pillars — enhancing manufacturing; food security and nutrition; and affordable housing. In fact, while execution for the other three is still being planned, the UHC pilot in Isiolo, Kisumu, Machakos and Nyeri counties was launched by the President in December 2018.

Despite the undeniable urgency to implement UHC, Kenya has to get it right. This is a major policy shift with massive implications for the future wellbeing of Kenyans and the economy. Two factors will determine success or failure of the UHC initiative which seeks to make healthcare accessible, affordable and of high quality. These are the model of investment as well as governance and accountability measures.

The model Kenya will adopt to achieve UHC is crucial, especially from the cost perspective. UHC is NOT free healthcare. One way or the other, Kenyans will have to pay for it from our taxes and through a mandatory contributory scheme. The cost of healthcare has been rising steadily. The Kenya Economic Survey 2018 shows that public expenditure on health services increased from Sh38 billion in 2013/14 to an estimated Sh66 billion in 2017/18. Despite heavy investments by the government in health services, more than half of total health expenditure is non-public, meaning that most of the health expenses are not met by the government.

According to the 2015/16 Kenya National Health Accounts, private sources of funding accounted for 40 percent of total expenditure, compared to 37 percent from public sources and 23 percent from donors. For UHC to succeed, public funding for healthcare will need to increase significantly so as to reduce the high out-of-pocket costs – a major contributor to the financial ruin of families – and bridge expected decline of support from donors over time.

A multisectoral approach towards prevention

To make UHC affordable, Kenya has to adopt a primary health care approach with substantial investment in preventive measures. Overall, it is cheaper to prevent than to treat infectious diseases such as malaria, waterborne and airborne diseases. Preventive measures could considerably reduce costs associated with treating and managing Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). NCDs in Kenya are not merely a growing challenge but are already a massive burden on our health system. The Ministry of Health’s Kenya Health Sector Strategic and Investment Plan for 2014-2018 estimates that between 50 percent and 70 percent of all hospital admissions, and up to 50 percent of hospital deaths, are as a result of NCDs.

To be successful, preventive healthcare measures require a multi-sectoral approach. For example, the outbreaks of cholera in different parts of the country in the last few years could have been prevented through improved water and sanitation infrastructure – not within the prime mandate of the Ministry of Health.

Greater efforts to promote physical activity such as developing walking and cycling lanes, promoting physical education in schools, provision of public playgrounds, and curbing drug and substance abuse –important NCD risk factors – are all under the mandate of a broad spectrum of other government ministries and agencies, including transport, lands, education and the police service.

In reality, the focus of the UHC initiative as it is currently unfolding in the pilot phase appears to be on treatment and services at the health facilities. This I learned while attending a recent forum addressed by a Governor and a CEC Health from two of the four counties privileged to be piloting the initiative. The pilot phase funds have been split 30 percent to health facilities to provide services, and 70 percent to the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority to provide commodities. It is highly questionable whether a focus on commodities should be the main thrust of the programme.

Transparency and accountability

This brings me to the second critical factor for UHC success. Transparency in the formulation process, accompanied by firm governance and accountability measures during implementation will be necessary to achieve UHC objectives. Numerous government programmes that have plowed huge sums of money without robust accountability and performance management measures have come to naught. Without belabouring the point, UHC is too important a programme to be condemned to a similar fate.

The experts who have been appointed to drive the UHC process and all other stakeholders, including the public, should be firm that the initiative be informed by credible evidence and lessons learned from similar successful ventures in other countries. Selfish interests must not be allowed to torpedo a once in a life-time opportunity.

Panel discussion on the motion on the operational independence of Parliament

Through the Malawi Parliament Enhancement Project(MPEP), the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP) has been supporting the Parliament of Malawi to finalize a report on the motion to have Malawi parliament operate independently in its oversight role. The motion was first moved by Honorable Boniface Kadzamira in 2016 and finally presented and adopted by the House on 13thDecember 2018.

The report proposes significant amendments to the Constitution, the Parliamentary Service Act, and the Public Finance Management Act, among other laws. In the current legal framework, Parliament has no control over its staff, its budget, and its operations. This has greatly hampered Parliament’s performance of its functions.

Why is independence of Parliament important? What challenges is parliament currently facing because of the current low levels of independence? What reforms are proposed in the report? What does it mean for Malawi’s population?

These and more questions will be answered in a panel discussion consisting of the Minister of Justice, Hon. Samuel Tembenu, who represents the Executive arm of government, the outgoing Chairperson of the Legal Affairs Committee, Hon. Maxwell Thyolera, whose Committee was tasked with finalizing the report and laying it before Parliament, an independent consultant, Mr. Alan Chinula, Senior Counsel (SC), who has been assisting the Legal Affairs Committee as well as Dr. Bernadette Malunga, a Law lecturer from Chancellor College.

The discussion will take place today, 19thMarch 2019, at Zodiak studios in area 47, Sector 5, Lilongwe from 18:30 to 20:00 hrs. The live session will be broadcast on both Zodiak TV and Radio stations and the general public are encouraged to follow the discussion and send in their questions and comments on the stations Twitter (@zodiakonline) and phone numbers will be provided at the start of the segment.

Furthering the Efforts of the Wellcome Trust and its Grantees in Enabling Research Uptake

Last June, AFIDEP joined a meeting in London convened by the Wellcome Trust for its grantees to brainstorm on the Trust’s new policy engagement programme. Although the Trust is a major funder of health research, it has not put much focus or investments in policy engagement efforts to facilitate research uptake by policymakers. However, growing interest and focus on evidence-informed decision-making (EIDM) has attracted the Trust’s attention to policy engagement. At the London meeting, the Trust’s grantees recommended the formation of a platform or network to facilitate sustained sharing of lessons and inform the thinking around the Trust’s policy engagement programme.

Fast-forward, last week on February 26-27, 2019, the Trust’s only research center in a low-income country, the Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Centre (MLW), and AFIDEP hosted a follow-up workshop in Lilongwe to take stock of how the Trust’s grantees are progressing in their policy engagement efforts, as well as, share and discuss experiences to inform the thinking on the Trust’s policy engagement programme. The workshop was funded by the Trust.

Why is this important to us at AFIDEP?
Our primary mandate at AFIDEP is to promote and contribute to institutionalising a culture of EIDM in development efforts in Africa. To do this, we, among others, contribute to growing and expanding the EIDM field on the continent. Dr. Eliya Zulu, AFIDEP’s Executive Director, who was involved in both the London and Lilongwe meetings, says “our involvement in all these greatly further our mandate because it enables us to contribute to the thinking of the Wellcome Trust, which is a leading funder of health research, on policy engagement.” He adds, “part of our role in growing the EIDM field is to interest more funders and bring them on board in efforts to intensify EIDM activities across the continent.”

Engaging in these forums has enabled us to inform the policy engagement efforts of the Trust’s grantees through sharing our experiences and lessons from our longstanding work in EIDM in Africa. Through these engagements, we also expand the EIDM community of practice on the continent.

Networks can play an even bigger role in facilitating evidence use
We themed the Lilongwe workshop on the role of networks in promoting and enabling evidence uptake in policy and programme decisions. This is because evidence has repeatedly confirmed the critical role of networks and relationships in enabling EIDM. At the workshop, various networks were represented, including the International Network of Government Science Advisors (INGSA), the African Academy of Sciences (AAS), and the emerging Evidence Informed Decision-making Network for Health Policy and Practice in Malawi (EVIDENT). Networks play a big role in stimulating interest and facilitating uptake of evidence by decisionmakers. However, these networks face various challenges, including that they are poorly structured, unstable, and most importantly, face grave sustainability challenges.
We believe that if governments and development actors value the current contribution of networks in enabling EIDM, they need to translate this into investments needed to strengthen and institutionalise these networks so that they can run more effectively.

According to Dr. Zulu, discussions at the workshop made it clear that Ministries of Health (MoHs) in resource-poor countries face a daunting challenge of having to deal with numerous uncoordinated and fragmented actors, all seeking to improve health. Says he, “this applies even to actors like us who are trying to influence MoH’s policy and programme decisions with evidence.” He adds, “a platform or network at country level coordinated by the MoH could play a big role in coordinating actors’ efforts to inform policy and programmes.”
The Evidence-Informed Policy Network (EVIPNet) operated by the WHO implemented similar efforts in various countries in Africa and around the world. In fact, the Malawi MoH’s Knowledge Translation Platform (KTP) established in 2012 drew from the experiences of EVIPNet in Africa. Although this platform has made some progress, its efforts have been greatly hampered by inadequate funding.

Renewed efforts through the EVIDENT network, spearheaded by the Malawi MoH (under the KTP), MLW, the College of Medicine (CoM, at the University of Malawi), and AFIDEP, provide an opportunity for health sector actors in Malawi to collectively inform policy and programme decisions for improved health outcomes in the country. Through EVIDENT, the MoH, MLW, CoM, and AFIDEP have formed a “Policy Unit” currently housed at CoM to coordinate the translation and discussion of evidence on specific health priority issues for MoH and the country, at large. This Unit is coordinated by the MoH, and once it is well established and grounded, it will need to move to operate from the MoH’s Public Health Institute in order to be fully accessible to all evidence actors in the country’s health sector.

Growing hope for the EIDM field
Despite being critical in improving the outcomes of development efforts and ultimately improving lives, the EIDM field is still nascent, particularly in regard to funding and programming. The increasing interest in policy engagement at the Wellcome Trust is good news and provides hope for the field, given the Trust’s big role in funding health sciences research. At AFIDEP, we continue to be hopeful that more governments on the continent and development actors will translate their interest in EIDM into long-term investments needed in order to institutionalise a culture of evidence use.

 

 

Networks for Policy Engagement Workshop Highlights the Gaps and Opportunities in Evidence Informed​ Decision Making

The Networks for Policy Engagement workshop, co-hosted by AFIDEP and the Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Centre (MLW), marked an exciting two days of sharing passion for, lessons on, and commitment to the field of evidence-informed decision-making (EIDM). Taking place in Lilongwe, Malawi 25-27 February, the workshop brought together a dynamic, multidisciplinary group of research and policy experts from across Africa and Asia. Strategically, the workshop also served to inform Wellcome Trust, an emerging EIDM donor, of how they can address challenges and fill existing gaps in the EIDM field.

As a relatively new field, EIDM suffers from a lack of documented success [and failure]. This is due, in part, to the difficulty of evaluating the impact of policy engagement and EIDM. As participants noted, the policy-making process is a complex one, taking into account countless inputs, of which evidence is only one. Without the ability to disentangle policy from the politics it operates within, identifying causation and measuring impact of evidence in a realistic timeline are therefore really hard. Although delegates agreed upon the need for robust monitoring and evaluation of policy engagement and EIDM, they recognised that the best and quickest way to know if your work is effective is if you “keep getting invited back.” And the best and most compelling way to share such experiences and impact is through stories (like this one). From Wellcome’s perspective, Dr. Anna Ruddock, the Global Health Policy Advisor, later emphasised the need to share with donors the great success stories as well as the big failures. As a network and entire field, we cannot learn from our mistakes if we never talk about them.

Furthermore, as a field, EIDM must go beyond being evaluated by the mere existence of policies or decisions that are informed by evidence to actually measure their implementation. Policies are not ends in and of themselves. Rather, they are means to an end. And for policies to have their intended effects, they must be implemented effectively. Implementation was marked as a major challenge throughout the workshop, but most poignantly by Honorable Member of Malawi Parliament, Juliana Lunguzi, who noted that Malawi has many policies, but “implementation is the problem.” With implementation science and policy evaluation as hot-emerging fields, they are critical spaces for EIDM expansion. And as many actors now work to bridge the gap between research and policy, focus is needed to bridge the policy to practice gap.

Throughout the workshop, participants noted the lack of relevant and excellent research and evidence as a major challenge in EIDM. This stems from the fact that historically, most research in low and middle-income countries is externally funded, conducted and dictated. With limited resources, governments rarely prioritise locally-funded research, resulting in most research being externally-funded and often not responsive to priorities of governments. To address this challenge, participants emphasised the need for and value in co-production of knowledge, while advocating for nationally-funded research. One potential method of advocating for government-funded research was presented by AFIDEP’s Executive Director, Dr Eliya Zulu. Dr Zulu challenged the group to think of how the public can be mobilised to value evidence so that they pressure the government to put more resources into research and evidence.

It was during the last session of the workshop, a panel on Bringing Public Voices in Policy Engagement, that the power of the workshop and networks were made perfectly clear. Honorable Juliana Lunguzi called out the various critical gaps in policy engagement and EIDM—minimal public engagement, dependency on donors, uncoordinated stakeholders, and poor policy implementation. However, following such critiques, Honorable Juliana provided words of encouragement and reassurance– that she has seen the value of EIDM, that she wants to use evidence, and that addressing all of the current gaps is possible.

Ultimately, the challenges which policy engagement and EIDM currently face cannot be solved overnight or by fragmented actors. Rather, sustained, inclusive and determined networks are needed. And platforms which facilitate critical reflection and sharing of experiences—like the workshop—are fundamental to responsive and impactful efforts. Reflecting on the value of the workshop, Prof Nyovani Madise, AFIDEP’s Director of Research and Development Policy and Head of Malawi Office, notes “hearing the passion that people have for policy engagement…and to see the value that they [excellent research organisations] have put on policy engagement is really encouraging.” Despite the current challenges which EIDM champions face, the workshop reassured the network of the remarkable value in and potential for EIDM to transform lives for the better.

 

Strengthening Malawi Parliament Committees: Performance evaluation with Committee Chairs

At the heart of effective Parliament work is the impact that comes from the contributions of Parliamentary Committees. In carrying out its legislative, representative and oversight functions, the Malawi Parliament has 19 committees comprising of elected Members of Parliament (MPs) from different political parties. These committees are appointed in order to respond to, consider, inquire into, and deal with issues entrusted to it by the House. It is of note that Parliamentary Committees in the Malawi Parliament are guided by the Handbook on Committee Procedure and Practice.

Appointment of members to a committee is through the party “chief whips” who present the names of their party members who they would like to be represented by to the Parliamentary Business Committee. Already, one may wonder then what criteria is used by these parties to select members. While the understanding has been that members be selected into committees based on merit and experience, this has not always been the case as was evidenced in some of the findings at the committee chairs workshop.

The Parliament of Malawi and the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP) through the Malawi Parliament Enhancement Project (MPEP) conducted a workshop for committee chairs to review, in hindsight, committee performance in the 2014-2019 Malawi Parliament. This was a two-day workshop that took place between 17-18 December 2018 at Kabumba Hotel in Salima, Malawi. The workshop participants discussed the achievements of the various committees, the challenges undermining their performance, lessons from other Parliaments, opportunities for improving committee performance, the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) tools for committees, and made recommendations for improving committee performances.

The workshop was held with the objective of reviewing and discussing the performance of committees in the current Parliament, with the larger objective being to initiate the process of developing an effective monitoring, learning, and evaluation (MLE) framework for managing committee performance in Parliament. The facilitators of the workshop were Mr. Roosevelt Gondwe, an International Advisory Committee member for MPEP, who is also the former Clerk of Parliament having served the institution for 32 years; Hon. Dan Ogalo, a former Member of the Uganda Parliament, who is also a member of the International Advisory Committee; and Dr. Rose Oronje, the Director of Public Policy and Communications at the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP). The workshop’s attendance was comprised of committee chairs and deputy chairs, and staff members of the Malawi Parliament.

The workshop highlighted some of the main committee achievements in the past 5 years, such as the passing and adoption of Bills that had been shelved for the past 3 years, for example, the Tobacco Bill; the successful conducting of commissions of inquiry; undertaking study tours to other Parliaments to learn how to best implement the work of the Malawi Parliament; the increase in the number of private member Bills that have been introduced; and taking Parliament to the people, among other achievements.

However, with these achievements in the last 5 years, also came the challenges faced by MPs in their various committees.

In order to respond to all the emerging public policy issues, committees require adequate time allocated to their meetings. However, this is not always the case, as not only do committees have limited time allocations for their meetings, they also face the challenge of delayed and inadequate funding. Further, some MPs have the tendency to abandon the committees whose membership is considered to have no monetary incentives, leaving these committees underrepresented. The Committee on Defense and Security was cited as one such committee that has seen its members abandon ship on different occasions.

Some challenges were highlighted as being beyond the control of committee members. Much as Standing Orders outline the guidelines for allocation of MPs to various committees, this protocol is often overlooked and instead politics come into play as MPs are allocated to committees on the basis of loyalty to their parties. This criteria, in turn, affects the committee’s performance as it disregards the expertise of each MP to function in certain allocated committees. There is also a lack of seriousness from the Executive when it comes to acting on recommendations from the various reports on crucial issues presented by committees.

On the other hand, committee chairpersons also identified opportunities that may be worth exploring in the upcoming 2019-2024 Parliament. Much as the interaction between the Executive and Parliament has been limited, MPs view the establishment of the Government Assurance Committee as a means to overcome this hurdle as it allows for there to be constant interaction between the Executive and Parliament. Establishment of the Parliament Budget Office is seen as an opportunity to enhance the performance of committees on budget analysis.

At the end of the evaluation workshop chairpersons of various committees came up with recommendations, which, in their view, if adopted will assist in the way that Parliament carries out its mandate with the help of various committees. Looking at the legal framework and the general management of committees, recommendations were two-fold. It was suggested by the various chairpersons that there is need to amend the Standing Orders to address the Executive’s failure to respond to committee reports adopted in the House; Standing Orders pertaining to composition of the committee should be revised to take into account the Gender Equality Act 60/40 on composition of committees; as well as review the size and mandates of the committees to avoid overlaps in carrying out their work.  Additionally, there is a need to train committee chairs and vice chairs on their mandates before they assume office so as to enable them to guide committees procedurally. In order to ensure improved performance by the committees, there is need to set up an M&E unit that monitors all committee work, each committee upon assuming office should prepare annual work plans that will be submitted to the committee of chairpersons. There is a need for committees to work closely with the Parliament Public Relations office in ensuring that all work done by committees is disseminated to the public. Lastly, each committee should prepare a legacy report when their term in Parliament comes to an end to aid in a smooth transition for new committees elected with each incoming Parliament.

The Committee Chairs workshop followed one held with the Committee Clerks, who had recommended that MPs be assigned to committees based on criteria that among other things considers their areas of expertise. Citing South Africa, they had also recommended having documentation of committees work and initiatives for reference by future committees. The Chairpersons considered recommendations from the clerks and agreed to i) using the criteria stipulated in the Standing Orders with regard to selecting  MPs into various committees and, ii) working to produce legacy reports at the end of 5 years of committee work.

AFIDEP continues to work with committee chairs as a follow-up to these recommendations from the workshop and other initiatives to strengthen Parliamentary committees in Malawi.