People have many questions about Parliament and some of them might not have been adequately addressed elsewhere on the Website.
We have listed some of the more frequently asked
Q:What is a portfolio Committee?
A:A portfolio committee is a group of members of parliament assigned to shadow activities of a ministry/ministries with regard to policy implementation, administration, expenditure, legislative programme and other matters the House may by resolution determine. These portfolio committees are designated by government portfolios. In other words, for every government ministry there is a an equivalent portfolio committee at parliament, which is responsible for monitoring the activities of that ministry. For instance, the portfolio committee on Health monitors the activities of the Ministry of Health.
Q:How are members appointed to serve on portfolio committees?
A:Members are appointed to serve on portfolio committees by the Standing Rules and Orders Committee. The appointment takes into account such considerations as political representation, gender composition, professional experience and any other stated preferences of members.
Q:How effective are portfolio committees?
A:Portfolio committees have been found to be very effective as opposed to the previous committee system that was in place prior to the implementation of Parliamentary Reforms in 2000. Portfolio Committees have managed to influence changes in terms of legislation, government policies and expenditure in line with the expectations of the electorate. Thus portfolio committees provide the necessary checks and balances in the manner government departments execute their duties.
Q:What powers do portfolio committees have?
A:In terms of Standing Rules and Orders read together with the provisions of the Privileges Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act, portfolio committees have powers to summon anybody except the Head of State to appear before them to give oral evidence on oath or affirmation, receive representations from interested parties and to request any information or documents from anybody pertaining to their inquiries. They also have powers to conducting fact-finding visits or loco inspections without any hindrance whatsoever.
Q:What is the procedure if members of the public or civic society organizations wish to have an audience with portfolio committees?
A:Members of the public or civic society organizations (CSOs) wishing to have an audience with portfolio committees can write to the relevant portfolio committee requesting a meeting with that committee. The request should state the subject matter you wish to discuss with the committee. Once the committee receives your request, it schedules you in their workplan and advice you on the date when it can meet you. All correspondence should be directed to the Clerk of Parliament and clearly marked the name of the portfolio committee you may wish to meet.
Q.Am I protected if I wish to give privileged information to portfolio committees?
A:Yes, you are protected under the Privileges Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act. The act clearly says that "tempering with, deterring, threatening, beguiling or in any way unduly influencing any person in regard to evidence to be given by him or her before Parliament or a Committee constitute an offence. Members of the public, therefore, cannot be prosecuted for the information given to portfolio committees under oath. However, it is an offence to willfully lie or deliberately mislead a parliamentary committee.
Q:Is the media allowed to cover committee meetings?
A:Yes. One of the parliamentary reforms saw the opening up of committee meetings to the media as well as members of the public. The only exception is when committees are deliberating on oral evidence or considering a report.
Q:What has been the impact of parliamentary reforms regarding activities of committees?
A:The parliamentary reforms have enhanced civic and public participation in the legislative and budget process as committees now consult the public on the same, either through stakeholders meetings or public hearings.
Q:How can the public access committee reports?
A:Committee reports become public documents once they have been tabled n the House. They are captured in the Hansard and also posted on the parliament website. You can also collect your copy from the Journals Office (Papers Office Room 101) at Parliament.