Committees of Parliament undertake specialised functions which the Houses, may not be able to undertake and execute during plenary sessions. Executive oversight is one of the key functions of Committees of Parliament. It involves the review and monitoring of government policies, programmes and activities as well as the national budget. It takes a variety of forms and utilizes various techniques, with Committee enquiries being the most prominent.
TYPES OF PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEES
House-keeping Committees generally are concerned with the smooth run of the administration of Parliament. The main House-keeping Committees are:
Committee on Standing Rules and Orders (CSRO)
Section 151 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.20) Act, 2013 provides for the appointment of the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders (CSRO) which is the policy making body of Parliament. It is mandated to consider such matters concerning Parliament, as it deems necessary, including, among others,
Supervising the Administration of Parliament
formulating Standing Orders;
appointing Members to serve on Committees,
appointing Committee Chairpersons
determining conditions of service of staff and Members of Parliament.
recommending to the President appointments to various independent Commissions.
The CSRO is made up of the Speaker of the National Assembly (Chairperson), President of Senate (Deputy Chairperson), Deputy Speaker, Deputy President of the Senate, Minister of Finance and two other Ministers appointed by the President, Leader of Government business in each House of Parliament, the Leader of the Opposition in each House, Chief Whips of all parties represented in Parliament, the President of the Council of Chiefs, eight members elected by Parliament, four from each House and two members of which one is appointed by the Speaker of the National Assembly and the other one by the President of the Senate. The Members are appointed for the duration of a Parliamentary term. Membership of the CSRO reflects the gender and political composition of the combined Houses of Parliament.
Business of the House Committee
Each House has its own Business of the House Committee. This Committee among other functions is responsible for the management of the day to day business of the House and determines the Sitting Calendar. For the purposes of coordinating sessions and sittings, the two Committees may hold joint meetings.
Liaisons and Coordination Committee
The Committee coordinates the scheduling of Committee Business. It also coordinates and liaises with the Speaker of the National Assembly and the President of the Senate on attendance of Members at conferences and other activities. In addition, the Committee is responsible for the production of annual reports on the business of Committees.
Examples of Investigative Committees include Portfolio Committees, Thematic Committees, the Public Accounts Committee and Ad hoc Committees which may be appointed from time to time.
These are Committees designated according to government portfolios to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of government departments and other matters falling under their jurisdiction as Parliament may by resolution determine. Most of the work of Parliament is carried out by, and generated in Portfolio Committees, which are expected to table at least one report per Session in the National Assembly covering their activities. They also perform a pre-audit function. Currently, the National Assembly has 19 Portfolio Committees as follows:
- Budget, Finance and Economic Development
- Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services
- Energy and Power Development
- Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry
- Foreign Affairs and International Trade
- Health and Child Care
- Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development
- Industry and Commerce
- Information and Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services
- Information, Media and Broadcasting Services
- Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs
- Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Resettlement
- Local Government, Public Works and National Housing
- Mines and Mining Development
- Primary and Secondary Education
- Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare
- Transport and Infrastructural Development
- Women Affairs, Community, SME’s Development
- Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation
These were introduced during the Seventh Parliament for the Senate. They were conceived with the re-introduction of a bicameral Parliament with the view of eradicating duplication of efforts between Committees of both Houses. Thematic Committees are mandated to examine Government policies that fall under or relate to the designated theme or themes, or any other matters falling under their jurisdiction as the Committee on Standing Orders may determine. The Thematic Committees are as follows:
- Gender and Development
- Indigenisation and Empowerment
- Human Rights
- Peace and Security
- HIV and AIDS
- Sustainable Development Goals
Public Accounts Committee
This is a post audit Committee of the National Assembly. It is mandated to examine the financial affairs and accounts of Government Departments, state-owned institutions and local authorities. It examines all reports tabled by the Auditor General in Parliament.
PARLIAMENTARY LEGAL COMMITTEE
The Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) is a committee that is established in terms of section 152 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
It may be regarded as the Constitutional watchdog as its main mandate is to scrutinize the constitutionality of any proposed legislation both primary and subsidiary presented before Parliament. The Chairperson is appointed by the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders in terms of Standing Order No. 19.
The National Assembly Standing Orders, order 28 -43, make provision for the roles and functions of the Parliamentary Legal Committee, in accordance with the Constitution.
Counsel to Parliament serves as the secretariat to the PLC and is responsible for the notice of meeting, minutes and correspondence of the Parliamentary Legal Committee.
In terms of the Constitution after the beginning of each session of Parliament the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders must appoint a committee to be known as the Parliamentary Legal Committee, consisting of a least three (3) Members of Parliament who are not Minister or Deputy Minister.
A majority of the members of the Parliamentary Legal Committee must be qualified to practise in Zimbabwe as legal practitioners unless there are insufficient such persons eligible to be appointed to the committee.
The Speaker announces to the House the names of the Members appointed by the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders.
The proceedings in the Committee must be governed by the Rules relating to the Parliamentary Legal Committee.
MANDATE OF THE PARLIAMENTARY LEGAL COMMITTEE
Section 152(3) of the Constitution stipulates the mandate of the Parliamentary Legal Committee, that is to examine –
- every Bill, other than a Constitutional Bill, before it receives its final vote in the Senate or National Assembly;
- any Bill which has been amended after being examined by the Committee before the Bill receives its final vote in the Senate or the National Assembly ;
- every statutory instrument published in the Gazette;
- every draft Bill which has been referred to the Committee by a Vice- President or a Minister; and
- every draft statutory instrument which has been referred to the Committee by the authority empowered to make the instrument.
The mandate of the Parliamentary Legal Committee is further extended in terms of the Standing Orders, order 29 that is:
- to recommend the correction of any error or omission in any Statutory Instrument or Bill;
- to ensure that no Statutory Instrument derogates from the exercise of legislative power;
- to ensure that no statutory instrument shall contain matters more appropriate for parliamentary enactment, make the rights and liberties of persons duly dependent on administrative decisions which are not subject to review by a judicial tribunal; and change an Act of Parliament unless permitted to do so by the enabling Act.
- to consider petitions submitted to Parliament praying for pensions, grants, gratuities or other benefits which are not authorised by law but which are in respect of services rendered to the State and make recommendations to the House;
- to review existing law and interact with the Law Development Commission for its development;
CONDUCT OF PROCEEDINGS OF THE PARLIAMENTARY LEGAL COMMITTEE
The proceedings of the Committee must be conducted in privacy. The Committee must form its own opinion through the collective knowledge and experience of its members. Any decision of the Committee must be made by a majority of the members present and voting. The Committee must report to the House, the Vice President, Minister within twenty six business days beginning on the day the Bill is referred to the Committee, when the Bill described is in terms of section 152(3)(a) of the Constitution. A Bill described in section 152(3)(b)of the Constitution is to be reported in six business days beginning on the day the Bill is referred to the Committee. A draft Bill described in section 152(3)(d) of the Constitution within twenty six business days beginning the day the draft Bill was referred to the Committee.
In the event that the Committee is dissolved prior to the reporting of its opinion on a Bill it considered ,the Bill will be referred to the new Committee on the day on which the new Committee was appointed and be considered over a period of twenty six business days, the same is applicable in reference to Statutory Instruments.
On application of the Chairperson the Speaker with the consultation with the President of the Senate may , if he or she considers it proper to do so on account of the length ,complexity or any other sufficient reason extend any Bill, draft Bill, Statutory Instrument or draft Statutory Instrument referred to the Committee for a period of twenty six business days .
PRESENTATION OF REPORTS OF THE PARLIAMENTARY LEGAL COMMITTEE
The committee is to report on Bills within a specified period as mentioned previously or within the any extension of that period granted in accordance with the Constitution Fifth Schedule Part 3 and Standing Order 34.
If not it is not presumed that the Committee is of the opinion that no provision of the Bill is unconstitutional, the House concerned proceeds with the Bill as if the Committee had reported accordingly.
If the Committee reports that a provision of the Bill, if enacted would contravene the Constitution the House concerned must consider the report, if the House resolves that the provision considered is indeed unconstitutional, it must not be passed with that provision still being contained.
If it is resolved in accordance that a person of Bill if enacted would contravene the constitution, the Vice President or Minister may apply to the Constitution Court, within fourteen days after resolution which were passed for declaration of that provision, if enacted would be in accordance with the Constitution thus the Bill may be passed containing the provision in question.
Before the Senate and National Assembly considers the report of the Parliamentary Legal Committee, that a provision of the Statutory Instrument contravenes the Constitution or enabling Act, the Committee may withdraw the report if Constitution is satisfied that the provision has been repealed or amended in such a way as to remove the contravention.
If the Senate or National Assembly resolve that a provision does contravene the Constitution, the Clerk of Parliament must report the resolution to the authority which enacted the instrument, the authority must within twenty-one business days either apply to the Constitutional Court for declaration that the Statutory Instrument is in accordance with the Constitution or repeal the Statutory Instrument.
This results in the Statutory Instrument being suspended pending the Court’s decision. Where it is deemed that the provision of the Statutory Instrument is ultra vires the enabling Act, the provision ceases to have effect. The Clerk of Parliament must publish in the Gazette without delay the resolution and its effect
3.0 Ad hoc Committees
These are appointed to investigate and report on specific issues and they cease to exist once they have reported to the House. An example of such Committee is the Privileges Committee. Recently, we had an Ad Hoc Committee on The Analysis of the 2022 Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Preliminary Report on the Delimitation Exercise