Posted on August 5, 2020 by Pnafrica
The need for efficiency in the execution of legislative and other related functions, which modern Legislatures are confronted with, makes the utility of the committee system indispensable to modern legislatures. It is argued that all complex organizations operate through delegation of authority. Committees are therefore put in place to digest bills introduced into parliament by the executive and the individual members of Parliament. It is in committee rooms where the contents of public policies are shaped, various civil society organizations in the country heard, and finally, legislation fashioned out. Parliament subsequently sits to sanction the conclusion of its committees
Decision making in Parliament in Ghana is normally the interaction between committees, political parties, interest groups and the parent chamber. The committee system is very significant to the smooth functioning of parliament of the Fourth Republic. One can infer plausibly that decision- making in Ghana’s Parliament is shaped by the interactions between political parties, committees and parent House, civil society organizations and other state and non-state actors.
The parliament of Ghana, like its counterparts in the United States, United Kingdom and other established democracies, legislates in its committee rooms. The existence of the committee system allows Parliament to increase the amount of work done by Parliament. Committees also ensure that issues can be debated in more depth than can be done in plenary sessions. The participation of Parliamentarians in discussing issues more fully is also enhanced because committees are normally much smaller than plenaries. The existence of committees also enables Parliamentarians to develop expertise in the committees’ area of work. Furthermore, committees provide a forum for the public to present their views directly to members of parliament. Finally, committees provide the platform for Parliament to hear evidence and collect the relevant documents which are relevant to the work of a specific committee’s work.
The legal basis of Committees in Ghana’s Parliament
The 1992 Constitution recognizes the crucial role played by committees in the performance of the functions of parliament. Like the Second and Third Republican Constitutions, the framers of the 1992 Constitution envisioned a situation where the presence of efficient committees will facilitate the work of parliament as a whole while helping the public to participate effectively in the legislative process. The framers of the Constitution, therefore, laid a solid foundation for the establishment of an effective committee system with wide-ranging powers and motivated by the desire to see parliament exercise its function of policymaking and oversight of the executive in a professional manner and secure for the people of Ghana a well-governed state. For instance, Article 103(1) of the 1992 Constitution empowers Parliament to appoint standing committees and other committees for the effective discharge of its functions. Sub –Sections (2) of Article 103 also states that ‘a committee appointed under this article shall have the powers, rights, and privileges of the High Court or a Justice of the High Court at a trial for: (a) enforcing the attendance of witness and examining them on oath, affirmation or otherwise, (b) compelling the production of documents; and (c) issuing a commission or request to examine witnesses abroad.
Section 156 of the Standing Orders of Parliament also states that; ‘the Standing and Select Committees of the House shall be assigned such functions as are specified in the Orders’. It further states that; ‘all bills, resolutions and other matters relating to the subject within their jurisdiction shall be referred to them as provided for in the standing orders’. These provisions establish a firm legal basis for the functioning of committees in Ghana’s Parliament and cloak them with a number of functions to perform.
Generic Functions of Committees
The functions performed by committees include the following:
In the first place, the committees provide an increased ability for the parliament to scrutinize government policy and expenditure. The also committees can be an important part of the legislative process. In addition, the committee system enables parliament to tap into the expertise of individuals and groups. Furthermore, committees facilitate an increased level of collegiality between members from different political parties who may not otherwise have the opportunity to work with one other. Finally, committees stimulate public debates on policy issues thereby increasing public awareness and facilitating the effective participation in the policy process
Challenges of Committees
The functioning of the committees is, however, hampered by a number of factors. First, the bulk of the legislation is initiated by the executive and until recently, does not allow private members to initiate bills in parliament. Secondly, even though the 1992 Constitution gives Parliament an explicit mandate to investigate any issue of national importance by using the committee system, Parliament has always called on the executive to initiate investigations into such scandals, portraying the committee system as unable or unwilling to carry out its oversight functions effectively. Thirdly, the committees of parliament are not adequately resourced to perform effectively and efficiently. Fourthly, committees are unable to effectively scrutinize government policies because more often than not policy documents are submitted to parliament when it is too late for any detailed examination by committees.