COUNSEL TO PARLIAMENT DIRECTORATE
The office of Counsel to Parliament is responsible for providing legal services to the institution of Parliament. These services include provision of legal advice, managing meetings of the Parliamentary Legal Committee, litigation management and maintenance of an updated version of Statutes and Statutory Instruments. The directorate is headed by Counsel to Parliament.
To adequately assist Parliament by providing efficient and professional legal services in the fulfilment of its Constitutional mandate and in pursuance of its oversight function.
To provide professional legal services to the institution of Parliament.
The department is guided by the principles enunciated in the Legal Practitioners Act [Chapter 27:07] which governs the legal profession in Zimbabwe and Principles for the Establishment and Operation of Offices of Legal Counsel in Parliaments in Africa, (commonly referred to as the “Nairobi Principles: 2015”).
The Institution’s principles of Quality Management System of SAAZ ISO 9001:15 and Legal Ethics guide the department in conjunction with abiding to the tenets of the Legal Practitioners Act [Chapter 27:07].
Legal Services Provided
- Legal Advice: Counsel to Parliament provides legal advice to the Presiding Officers, Members of Parliament and Committees of Parliament and the Administration of Parliament on various issues affecting the operations of the institution.
- Legislative Drafting: During debate at the second reading stage of the legislative process, Members of Parliament are allowed to introduce proposed amendments to a Bill. Such proposed amendments must be in the proper legislative format. The office of Counsel is available to assist members in the drafting and formatting of such amendments. It is also the responsibility of Counsel to assist members in the drafting of private members’ Bills.
Parliamentary Legal Committee Secretariat Services:
Counsel to Parliament is the officer who provides secretariat services to the Parliamentary Legal Committee. The Parliamentary Legal Committee is provided for under section 152 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. Its mandate is derived from the Constitution and Standing Orders which is basically to scrutinize the constitutionality of proposed legislation, both primary and subsidiary and reports accordingly to Parliament. The terms of reference as specified in the Constitution and Standing Orders are in summary:
- to examine and scrutinise all Bills and Statutory Instruments that are published in the Government Gazette and report to the House on the constitutionality of the Bills;
- in the case of statutory instruments, to examine on whether or not the statutory instrument contains provisions that are ultra-vires the enabling legislation;
- calling for the correction of errors in any Statutory Instrument or Bills;
- consideration of all petitions including petitions praying for pension, grants, gratuities or other benefits which are not authorised by law but which are in respect of services rendered to the State;
- reviewing of existing laws in consultation with the Law Development Commission.
The work of the Committee contributes immensely to the passage of Bills and plays an advisory role to Parliament. The Declaration of Rights in the Constitution is meant to safeguard the rights and freedoms of the individual. It is the duty of the Committee as a “Constitutional Watchdog” to bring to the attention of Parliament any provisions in proposed legislation which might prevent the enjoyment of these rights.
As the secretary to this Committee, Counsel is responsible for calling for and organizing meetings of the Committee. She/He attends all meetings and compiles minutes as well as reports for the Committee. Counsel may also be tasked to organize meetings with members of the executive. It is the duty of Counsel to ensure that the committee is always properly advised on issues of constitutional, administrative and human rights law and also on contemporary practices and theories relating to the interpretation of the Constitution. This duty can only be discharged through extensive research and consultation.
- Updating of Legislation: The department is responsible for updating legislation as it is amended from time to time. Honourable Members and any stakeholders may access up to date versions of Acts and Statutory Instruments from the office of Counsel.
- Declaration of Assets by Members of Parliament: Standing Orders 50 and 51 of the Senate and National Assembly Standing Orders respectively require, all members to register their financial interests in a book to be kept by the Clerk under the direction of the Speaker. Failure by Members to declare financial interests within sixty (60) days of taking oath or presenting a false declaration shall constitute contempt. The department is responsible for facilitating and maintaining a register of all Members registering their financial interests in compliance with the Standing Orders. The department maintains high level of confidentiality in discharging this function to ensure Member’s information remains confidential.
The structure of the Department is as follows:
- Counsel to Parliament- Chief Director level
- Assistant Counsel to Parliament– Director level
- Principal Law Officer- Deputy Director level
- Law Officers
- Executive Assistant to Counsel to Parliament