As 2nd Parliament Open Day Ends… Role of Committees in Ensuring Good Governance & Development

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By Amin Kef Sesay

During an Open Day into the proceedings of Parliament, the Deputy Minister of Information and Communications, Solomon Jamiru, said Parliamentarians must see themselves as leaders – in order words, they should be the shepherds guiding the State in the ways of good governance.  He made that statement while commenting on the role of Parliament in national development.

Looking at the historical relationship between democracy, good governance and development, one finds that democracy and good governance both have a positive impact on development.

In this sense, Parliament takes the lead role in the promotion of good governance by diligently, meticulously and dispassionately performing its Oversight functions which automatically bring about good governance by promoting control a control that could be exercised through proper institutional and constitutional design.

Sub-Section 2 of Section 93 of the 1991 Constitution provides for the establishment of Oversight Committees to parallel and oversee  Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) established by the Executive branch of  Government. Each Committee bears the name of the MDA it oversees, e. g. Health and Sanitation Committee, Mines and Minerals Committee etc. etc.

By the provisions of Section 93 (4), there is no limitation in the powers of Parliament to create Committees. Parliament may at any time appoint any other Committee to investigate any matter of public importance.

As it stands, corruption and willful mismanagement of public funds are the biggest hindrance to development, as funds budgeted for that purpose most times end in private pockets and overseas accounts or are seen in mighty mansions, expensive vehicles and other valuable assets owned by those in power, financial directors and vote controllers, procurement officers and senior MDA bosses.

Thus, in order to combat corruption and to promote good governance, the parliamentary committees responsible for oversight need to be strengthened.

Specifically, it is necessary to strengthen Parliament’s ability to oversee effectively the Government and to control the behavior of its members.

To do so properly Parliament should be given proper oversight tools to scrutinize the actions of the Government ,both ex-ante and ex-post.

Ex-ante oversight refers to all the actions the Parliament (its members, its committees) can take to see whether and to what extent the Government plans are actually needed, useful, viable, efficient, effective, economic and so on. Ex-post oversight refers to all the actions that a Parliament can take to check whether and to what extent the Government is implementing its policies, plans and programs as they had been approved by the Parliament.

In order to perform its oversight function, Parliament can use a variety of tools: committee hearings, hearing in plenary sessions of the Parliament, the creation of Commissions of Inquiry, questions, urgent questions, written questions, questions to be answered in the committees, interpellations, urgent interpellations, the Ombudsman, Auditor General, and the public account committees.

The Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC )is extremely useful in overseeing the Government’s expenditure and promoting good governance.

The importance of providing the Parliament with a proper set of oversight tools should not be overlooked.

Increasing Parliament’s oversight potential promotes democracy and promotes good governance.

The quality of democracy improves as the number of oversight tools at the disposal of a Parliament increases.

And more importantly, the level of honesty perceived in the country increases as the number of oversight tools increases.

To sum up, the quality of democracy and the level of honesty are both very strongly and very significantly related to the number of oversight tools.

Therefore, increasing a Parliament’s oversight potential is good for democracy, good governance and in the end development.

This means that the availability of oversight tools is more important than the country’s level of democracy in promoting all aspects of development; including GDP per capita or life expectancy.

It is a better predictor of adult illiteracy than good governance, and it is a better predictor of both democracy and good governance in promoting social equality.

Thus, strengthening Parliament’s oversight capacity is good for three different reasons.

Oversight is good because it promotes democracy (which is good for development), is good for good governance (which is also good for development) and it contributes to promoting development in ways not accounted for by either democracy or good governance.

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