Parliamentary Committees are a composition of Members of Parliament who are named or appointed by the House through the Committee of Selection which comprises of the Speaker, Leader of Opposition, Party Whips and an additional member, not being a Cabinet Minister. The mandate the committees is to consider, inquire into, or deal with particular matters or Bills in greater detail. They are miniature Parliaments with the same powers, immunities and privileges as the House itself. They are also a means to provide the public, civil society organizations and other stakeholders with the opportunity to access and make representations to the Assembly on certain matters.
Standing Order 98 to 125 provides in greater detail the classification, appointment and functions of committees including other procedural matters such as convening of first meetings and election of chairpersons were applicable.
RATIONALE FOR COMMITTEES
Legislatures around the world are instituting Committees for the efficient discharge of the business of the House and in greater detail. A Parliamentary Committee system ensures that the Executive is accountable to the nation. This system brings the legislature face to face with government bureaucracy and other stakeholder, thus increasing the information available on governmental activities and projects. Committees therefor carry out the following functions:
• Scrutinize government policies and programmes
• Consider and scrutinize any existing law and propose amendments where necessary
• Scrutinize any international treaty or convention, which is domesticated or ratified, in form of a Bill.
Oversight is about keeping an eye on the activities of the Executive and holding the Executive to account. A particularly important element of oversight concerns the budget; checking that spending decisions are in line with national priorities. Parliamentary oversight can contribute to ensuring that the relationship between the state and its citizens is one which is characterised by accountability.
Parliamentary Oversight can be described as Parliament performing a watchdog function over the executive and thus causing the executive to account. This would entail overseeing the use of allocated funds through scrutiny by committees such as the Public Accounts Committee and the Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises.
The Finance and Estimates Committee also scrutinizes supplementary funds requested by various ministries to ensure that the supplementary funds being requested are to cater for unforeseen expenditures.
Oversight Committees such as the Public Accounts Committee are at the forefront on issues of financial scrutiny and accountability.
Oversight aims to;
i) improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the economy and Government operations
ii) Evaluate the performance of government programs
iii) Prevent the executive from encroaching on legislative powers
iv) Guide against instances of poor administration, abuse, waste and fraud
v) Improves the quality of democracy
vi) Reduces corruption
In order to achieve the above, Parliamentary Committees must establish credibility with the civil society and the public at large including the Government (Executive) that they oversee.
• Consider the revenue and expenditures of Government
• Consider taxes to be levied
• Consider proposals for Government borrowing
• Consider supplementary estimates of revenue and expenditure
• Exercise control over the activities carried out by Portofolio Government Ministries/ Departments.
• Hold the Ministers to account for their actions and fulfill their assurances.
• Support and implement the work of watchdog institutions like the Botswana Human Rights Commission, etc.
• Articulate constituency and public demands
• Examine reports of the Auditor – General, report on them and enforce accountability.
• Provide advocacy on promotion of equal opportunities, promotion of Science and
Technology and combating of pandemics such as HIV/AIDS.
TYPES OF COMMITTEES
Committees are classified into three (3) categories, namely
- Standing Committees which are created for the life of Parliament
- Special Select Committees, appointed by the National Assembly Order on a motion to consider the terms of a Bill or any other purpose and,
- Parliamentary Portfolio Committees which are created for the life of Parliament with a sectoral mandate.
A standing committee is a permanent, regular committee which is established by the Standing Orders, an Act of Parliament, or the Constitution. Parliamentary Standing committees are divided into two, Administrative and Oversight Committees.
ADMINISTRATIVE STANDING COMMITTEES
Administrative Standing Committees are committees which deal with the running of Parliament Committees, the House and the wellfare of Members of Parliament. The following are Administrative Standing Committees:-
i) Committee of Selection
ii) Standing Orders and Reforms Committee
iii) Committee on National Assembly Staff
iv) Committee on Member’s Rights, Interests and Privileges
v) Business Advisory Committee
vi) Committee on Chairpersons of Parliamentary Committee
OVERSIGHT STANDING COMMITTEES
Oversight standing Committees are those that exercise oversight over Government institutions, and they are as follows:-
- Public Accounts Committee
- Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises Committee
- Subsidiary Legislation Committee
- Finance and Estimates Committee
Similar to the Standing Committees, these are appointed at the beginning of each Parliament for the Life of the Parliament and shall stand dissolved upon the dissolution of the Assembly. The Parliamentary Portfolio Committees exercise oversight and scrutiny over Government Ministries, Departments and Agen¬cies within their sectorial mandates and report their findings to the Assembly. Portfolio Committees also review Government Policies and Legislation under their portfolio.
The Following are Portfolio Committees:-
i. Wildlife, Tourism, Natural Resources & Climate Change
ii. Agriculture, Lands & Housing
iii. Foreign Affairs, Defence, Justice, Security & Government Assurances
iv. Finance, Trade & Economic Development
v. Communications, Works, Transport & Technology
vi. Labour and Home Affairs
vii. Health and HIV/AIDS
viii. Governance & Oversight
ix. Public Service and its Management
x. Education & Skills Development
xi. Youth, Sport, Arts & Culture
xii. Local Governance & Social Welfare
SPECIAL SELECT COMMITTEES
Special Select Committees are appointed by the National As¬sembly Order on a motion to consider the terms of a Bill or deal with a certain specific matter or inquiry. These are automatically dissolved once they submit their final reports. They often hold public hearings to obtain input from the public.
The Parliament of Botswana is affiliated to five Inter Parliamentary Bodies, being; SADC Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF), Pan African Parliament (PAP), Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU), Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) and the African Caribbean Pacific – European Community (ACP/EU).
Through such affiliations, Members of Parliament are able to interact with their counterparts and share views and experiences on good governance, democracy and on general social, economic and political issues affecting their respective regions.
SADC PARLIAMENTARY FORUM (SADC – PF)
The Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF) was established in 1997 in accordance with Article 9 (2) of the SADC Treaty as an autonomous institution of SADC. It is a regional Inter-Parliamentary body composed of Fourteen (14) Parliaments in the SADC region.
The Forum seeks to promote best practices in the role of parliaments in regional cooperation and integration as outlined in the SADC Treaty and the Forum Constitution. Its main aim is to provide a platform for Parliaments and Parliamentarians to promote and improve Regional Integration in the SADC region, through Parliamentary involvement.
The constitution provides that the SADC PF delegation shall consist of the Presiding Officer (Speaker) and four (4) representatives elected by each National Parliament through a Caucus meeting, provided that in electing the four, each National Parliament shall:
• Ensure equitable representation of women and political parties that are represented in Parliament;
• Include the Chairperson of the National Women’s Parliamentary Caucus.
A representative of the SADC PF shall serve for a period of five (5) years from the date of his/her election to the SADC PF unless he/she ceases to be a member of, or is replaced, by his/her national Parliament.
The SADC-PF Plenary Assembly meets twice a year and in addition various committees such as HIV/AIDS, Democracy and Good Governance, Women’s Caucus meet at different intervals throughout the year.
PAN AFRICAN PARLIAMENT (PAP)
The Pan African Parliament whose seat is in Midrand, South Africa was established in March 2004, by Article 17 of The Constitutive Act of the African Union, as one of the nine Organs provided for in the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community signed in Abuja, Nigeria, in 1991.
The establishment of the Pan African Parliament is informed by a vision to provide a common platform for African peoples and their grass-roots organizations to be more involved in discussions and decision-making on the problems and challenges facing the continent.
PAP has consultative and advisory powers only and its ultimate aim is to evolve into an institution with full legislative powers.
Article 4 of the protocol to the treaty establishing the African Economic Community relating to the Pan African Parliament states that each Member State shall be represented in the PAP by five (5) members, at least one of whom must be a woman. The term of a Member of the Pan African Parliament shall run concurrently with his or her term in the National Parliament.
The representation of each Member state must reflect the diversity of political opinions in each National Parliament or other deliberative organ and membership shall not be compatible with the exercise of executive or judicial functions in a Member State.
The Ordinary Sessions of Parliament meets twice a year and Members shall be expected to attend various committee meetings throughout the year. Membership of the PAP is elected at an All Party Caucus.
INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION (IPU)
The IPU whose headquarters is in Geneva was formed in 1889 and it is an international organization of Parliaments of sovereign States. Its focus is on peace and co-operation among peoples and for the firm establishment of representative institutions. To that end, it:
• Fosters contacts, co-ordination, and the exchange of experience among parliaments and parliamentarians of all countries;
• Considers questions of international interest and concern and expresses its views on such issues in order to bring about action by parliaments and parliamentarians;
• Contributes to the defence and promotion of human rights -an essential factor of parliamentary democracy and development;
• Contributes to better knowledge of the working of representative institutions and to the strengthening and development of their means of action.
The Union also co-operates with regional inter-parliamentary organizations such as PAP, AU, WTO, ACP – EU, CPA and SADC-PF, as well as with International Intergovernmental and Non-Governmental organizations which are motivated by the same ideals
Article 10 of the constitution of the IPU states that the assembly shall be composed of parliamentarians designated as delegates by the Members of the Union. Members shall include male and female parliamentarians in their delegation and shall strive to ensure equal representation of men and women.
It further states that the number of members of Parliament appointed as delegates to the first annual session of the Assembly by a Member of the Union shall in no case exceed eight in represent of Parliaments of countries with a population of less than one hundred million inhabitants, or ten in respect of Parliaments of countries with a population of one hundred million inhabitants or more.
The number of delegates to the second annual session shall not exceed five or seven for Parliaments of countries with a population of one hundred million inhabitants or more. The IPU has two General Assemblies in a year and membership is elected at an All Party Caucus.
COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY ASSOCIATION (CPA)
The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) is an International Community of Commonwealth Parliaments and Legislatures working together to deepen the Commonwealth’s commitment to the highest standards of Democratic Governance. The CPA was founded in 1911 as the Empire Parliamentary Association and evolved in 1948 into the CPA.
The Association has more than 170 Parliaments and Legislatures in 52 of the 53 Commonwealth countries and they constitute the CPA branches. Membership from each member state is as follows:
• The Hon. Speaker- President
• His Excellency the President- 1st Vice President
• Leader of the Opposition – 2nd Vice President
• Branch Representative is elected for the life of Parliament at an All Party Caucus.
• The Chairperson, Vice Chairperson and three additional members are elected annually at an all Party Caucus.
The Plenary Conference, Africa Region meeting and the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians meet once year.
AFRICAN CARIBBEAN PACIFIC-EUROPEAN UNION (ACP – EU)
The ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly was created to bring together the elected representatives of the European Community and the elected representatives of the African Caribbean and Pacific states that have signed the Cotonou Agreement. A substantial part of the work of the JPA is directed towards promoting human rights and democracy and the common values of humanity, and this has produced joint commitments undertaken within the framework of the UN conferences.
It composes of EU and ACP representatives. The members shall be, on the one hand, members of the European Parliament and, on the other, members of Parliament or, failing this, representatives designated by the Parliament of each ACP State.
The role of the Assembly as a consultative body is to promote democratic processes through dialogue and consultation and facilitate greater understanding between the people of the EU and those of the ACP.
Membership is composed of one or two members of whom are elected by the General assembly.
The ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly meets twice a year in a Plenary Session and meets alternately in an ACP country and an EU country.
MEMBERSHIP TO PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEES
Membership to Standing Committees and Portfolio Committees is appointed within 3 days after the commencement of the 1st Meeting of the 1st session of each Parliament. The appoint¬ment is done by the Committee of Selection, which is made up of the Speaker as the Chairperson, Leader of the Opposition, the Party Whips and one (1) additional Member appointed at the first meeting in the life of Parliament.
Membership to Parliamentary Committees is constituted so as to ensure as far as possible that the balance of the parties in the Assembly is reflected.