Parliamentary Reforms

In 1996 Parliament of Zimbabwe embarked on a comprehensive reform programme designed to:

  • strengthen the capacity of MPs to contribute more effectively to Parliamentary proceedings
  • improve internal systems and procedures of the house
  • increase public participation in the Legislative process and
  • enhance the oversight role of the House with special emphasis on promoting greater efficiency in the management of Public funds.

1. Although Parliamentary Reforms started at Independence in April 1980, they were largely undertaken in an ad hoc manner. However, the Legislature became increasingly aware that it was still widely viewed by the public as being a remote institution which was ill ' equipped and inadequately resourced to effectively represent the constituents. Furthermore, there was a popular perception that Parliament was too weak to bring the Executive Branch of the state to account for its actions and for public funds. Therefore, in an effort to address these concerns, the institution established a Parliamentary Reform Committee (PRC) in October 1996 to desire the designed reforms.

2. The PRC was tasked to investigate and make recommendations on the following matters:

  • The practice and procedure of the House in relation to public business;
  • The committee system;
  • The Legislative process;
  • Civic participation in Parliamentary business;
  • The conditions of work and support services for Members and staff of Parliament; and
  • Dress code decorum.

3. In order to carry out its mandate, the Committee engaged in unprecedented nation wide consultations with the public and civic organizations. The Committee also undertook extensive comparative research on best practices in selected African, European and Asian Parliamentary democracies. In 1999, the PRC submitted its Final Report confirming that Parliament was indeed, viewed as a remote institution which did not involve the public in its business, and that it was too weak to exercise oversight over the Executive wing of Government. The Committee also found that the public felt that the Legislature lacked the resources to effectively represent the people and that there was an urgent need for reforms.


4. The Report also contained wide-ranging recommendations to further strengthen the role of Parliament in national governance. The recommendations focused on the need to:

  • Improve internal systems and procedures of the Legislature;
  • Strengthen the capacity of MPs to contribute more effectively to Parliamentary proceedings;
  • Increase public participation in the legislative process; and
  • Enhance the oversight role of the House with special emphasis on promoting greater efficiency in the management of public resources.

5. The implementation of the reforms started in earnest in January 1999 when the project entitled Technical Support for Parliamentary Reforms was launched. This was followed by the inception of another project called Technical Support for Parliament ' Constituency Relations in July 2002. Both projects were formulated and implemented with technical and financial support from UNDP, USAID, the State University of New York ' Zimbabwe (SUNY- Zimbabwe), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Authority (SIDA), the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAF), Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) and the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF).

6. The main objectives of these two projects were:

  • To strengthen the capacity of Members and officers of Parliament to assume greater policy formulation tasks;
  • To establish policy based Portfolio Committees, including the Budget Committee, with substantive terms of reference, operational guidelines and working rules; and
  • To raise the visibility and profile of Parliament as a development policy shaping, formulation and implementation institution.
  • To establish 120 Parliament ' Constituency Information Centres (PCICs) to provide free access to Parliament's website, the Hansard, and other Parliamentary publications.

7.Meanwhile, in June 2002, Parliament, with technical and financial support from the UNDP, appointed a Capacity Assessment Team (CAT) of experts to assess the capacity of the Legislature to fully implement the reforms, and to make recommendations for the next phase of the reform process. The CAT presented its report in May 2003 and this report was adopted by Parliament in October 2003. The CAT acknowledged with great satisfaction the progress made in implementing the reforms, especially in the specific recommendations of the PRC.

8. Some of the more significant achievements of the programme include the following:

  • Establishment of Parliament Constituency Information Centres (PCICs) in over 90% of the 120 Constituencies represented in the House of Assembly. (see link to PCICs) These centres are staffed by full- time Office Assistants on Parliament's Payroll and are equipped with computers and all the usual office accessories.
  • The introduction of a re-engineered Budget Review Process which aims to promote more meaningful participation by Parliament, civic society and the general public in the Budget Formulation and Implementation Process through Pre- and -Post - Budget Workshops and monitoring by Portfolio Committees.
  • The establishment of 12 coordinated Porfolio Committees with detailed Terms of Reference and shadowing every Government Ministry.
  • The setting up of the Business of the House and the Business of the Senate Committees to organize the sessions and sittings as well as managing the daily Business of both Houses as well as determining time limits of debate. The Senate Business Committee comprises the President of the Senate, the Deputy President of the Senate, the Government Chief Whip, the Opposition Chief Whip, the Leader of Government Business and the Leader of the Opposition. The House of Assembly Business of the House Committee comprises the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker, the Leader of Government Business, the Government Chief Whip, the Opposition Chief Whip and the Leader of the Opposition.
  • The introduction of Parliamentary weekly question time without notice.
  • With regard to public participation in Parliamentary Business, 29 public hearings on Bills have been held and Youth Parliamentary Fora have been convened at 79 Secondary schools in all 10 Provinces of the country. Parliament has also exhibited annually at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF), the Harare Agricultural Show (HAS) and various Provincial Shows.
  • The translation of 14 key Parliamentary publications into vernacular languages.
  • The production of Provincial and Constituency Information Profiles.

9. However, one of the major challenges experienced by Parliament during the first phase of the programme was the need to secure more funding to augment available Government resources and donor support. To address this challenge, and upon recommendations by the Capacity Assessment Team, Parliament adopted a Multi-donor Programme approach whereby a UNDP -Managed Basked Fund Account was opened so that other donors would be invited to contribute. Individual donors can choose either to contribute funds to be used at Parliament's discretion in close consultation with the UNDP, or to fund certain specific activities of their choice.

10. The CAT also identified five essential success factors for the reforms, namely:

  • Continued political and administrative leadership and commitment;
  • Firm ownership of the programme by the Liaison and Coordination Committee (LCC) and MPs in general;
  • Parliament's ability to attract and retain highly qualified and experienced staff;
  • Effective collaboration with development partners and other key stakeholders; and
  • Efficient programme management arrangements.

11. Following extensive consultations within Parliament and between Parliament and the UNDP and other stakeholders, it was resolved that there was need to develop a more appropriate programme framework to facilitate the next phase of the reform process. Such a framework would take into account the progress made, the challenges experienced and the lessons learnt from the first phase. To this end, the Three - Year Rolling Multi - donor Parliamentary Support Programme, January 2005 - December 2007 was formulated and adopted.

12. The Three Year Rolling Multi-donor Parliamentary Support Programme is also informed by the recommendations of the CAT and the second Five Year Strategic Plan for Parliament, 2005 -2010. More specifically, the programme seeks to address Seven Key Strategic Objectives of Parliament which include:

  • Facilitating greater civic participation;
  • Strengthening Parliament's Legislative, Budget and Policy Analysis capability;
  • Empowering Members and staff of Parliament to discharge their respective responsibilities more effectively; and
  • Harnessing the power of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to enhance efficiency and effectiveness.

13. The target beneficiaries of the programme are:

  • The people of Zimbabwe, who will benefit from a more effective Legislature and more accountable MPs;
  • The MPs themselves, who will be empowered to serve their constituents more effectively; and
  • Officers of Parliament, who will be better equipped to provide more efficient administrative support to the Legislature.

14. The major activities to be undertaken include:

  • The implementation of Parliament's ICT Strategy, including the installation of a Local Area Network (LAN), a Wide Area Network (WAN) and the upgrading of the Website;
  • The purchase and installation of television cameras to facilitate live coverage of plenary and Portfolio Committee meetings;
  • The purchase and installation of up - to- date Hansard recording equipment; and
  • The dissemination of the Informatics Database of Provincial and Constituency Socio - Economic Profiles to the PCICs.

15. The programme is nationally executed and implemented by the Legislature through a Steering Committee consisting of the Business of the House Committees of the two Houses and the UNDP Resident Representative. The Steering Committee is co-chaired by the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Assembly and the UNDP Resident Representative, and meets at least once a quarter. The Clerk of Parliament serves as Secretary to the Steering Committee.

16.The role of the Steering Committee is to:

  • Advise on the execution of the Programme;
  • Establish priorities for the semi-annual Workplan;
  • Adopt relevant performance indicators and benchmarks;
  • Perform oversight and annual performance reviews;
  • Approve the Annual Progress Report for review by the Standing Rules and Orders Committee; and
  • Foster dialogue with development partners.

17. There is also a Programme Management Committee (PMC) which is chaired by the Clerk of Parliament and includes all Heads of Directorates of Parliament. The Committee's key role is to monitor the implementation of the Programme.

18. The Parliamentary Programme Coordination Unit (PCU) comprising a Programme Coordinator, a Programme Accountant, a Programme Officer and a Personal Assistant is responsible for the day - to - day coordination of the implementation of approved activities. The PCU achieves by, among other things, drafting Work Plans and Budgets, producing Financial and Progress Reports and ensuring compliance with laid down policies and procedures.

The key documents of the Reform Programme

1. The Foundation Report of the Parliamentary Reform Committee, May 1998
2. The Final Report of the Parliamentary Reform Committee, May 1999
3. The Capacity Assessment Report, March 2003
4. The Three Year Rolling Multi-donor Parliamentary Support Programme: January 2005 - December 2007
5. Parliament of Zimbabwe Strategic Plan 2005 - 2010
6. Reports of the Annual Retreats of the Liaison and Coordination Committee.

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