Tuesday, 6 November 2018

HEARINGS ARE NOT CRIMINAL ENQUIRIES : MPs TOLD

PARLIAMENTARY hearings are not a witch hunt and officials summoned must be treated as innocent until proven guilty, legislators have been told.

Clerk of Parliament, Mr Kennedy Chokuda said the committee hearings are not a criminal enquiry but part of the accountability and oversight role of Parliament.

Addressing an induction workshop for committee chairpersons in Bulawayo yesterday, Mr Chokuda said:

“The oversight inquiries that we conduct as a committee are not a criminal inquiry. Everyone who comes before committees of Parliament is innocent.


“Honourable Speaker, I sometimes have problems with Members of Parliament. They invite people saying …‘Money was stolen. Those people are thieves. We want to deal with them at our committee.’ It means you are going into that meeting, to meet people that are guilty and your mind is set to show that these people are guilty.”

He encouraged the committees to have objectives and questions to probe before coming to a conclusion.

“Their mandate is defined in the Standing Orders and most of their work revolves around the implementation of Government programmes and policies. We are seeing the enquiries that committees of Parliament are making. They are not a witch hunt at all; they are there to assist in the implementation of

Government programmes and to ensure that we comply with the requirements of the Constitution.
“So when people appear before committees of Parliament they are not guilty. They are coming to give evidence and then the committees should then adduce their recommendations based on the evidence that has come before them. Just like in the courts no one is guilty until proven otherwise and we should not see committee enquiries as enquiries into corruption only,” said Mr Chokuda.

Mr Chokuda said legislators should desist from labelling people as ‘incompetent’ when they appear before the committees as that should come from evidence presented not opinions from legislators.
He said a resolution to invite people to hearings must be a resolution from the committee not a solo decision by the chairperson or members with other ‘interests’ in the matter.

In his address, Speaker of Parliament Advocate Jacob Mudenda said committees must interrogate executive policies and hold parastatals and Ministries accountable.
Adv Mudenda said committees of Parliament are the ‘combustion chambers and blast furnaces’ of the oversight, representative and legislative processes of Parliament.

“Indeed, it is trite that committees of Parliament are the major drivers of Parliamentary processes. Consequently, the Committees which you chair must incisively interrogate Executive policies and the proposed law (Bills) so that national governance systems are ameliorated.

“As such, Committee Chairpersons must have an eye for detail so that they can make microscopic analysis and evaluation of all Government policy proposals and Bills under consideration by their respective Committees,” said Advocate Mudenda.

He said for committees to remain relevant always; they must be the pioneers of innovation in policy development and analysis as part of their oversight roles.

“In that regard, your committee reports should encapsulate recommendations that are time-bound and results oriented for ease of reference and tracking,” he said.

“In the same context, it is compelling for committees to religiously follow up on the implementation of their committee reports by the concerned Ministries and or parastatals. Where there is no timeous compliance you will have to charge the offending Government entities with contempt of Parliament as provided for in the Constitution and our Standing Rules and Orders. In the same vein, I urge you to right away peruse the President’s State of the Nation Address and lift out those proposed Bills that relate to your portfolio and then immediately start on the legislative process,” said Adv Mudenda.

He added: “Where Ministries have not tabled the Bills under your portfolio, call them to account. It must be stressed that the Ninth Parliament’s legislative agenda must be completed without fail. As Chairpersons of Committees demonstrate focused leadership in that direction”.

Adv Mudenda said equally of paramount importance, is that chairpersons and their Committee Members should be well geared in understanding the Public Finance Management Act [22:19] and other all enabling Acts relevant to their portfolio committees.

Advocate Mudenda urged members of committees to work in unison and shun party lines.
He said the Select Committees must play a central facilitative role in promoting and enhancing the National Development Agenda. Herald 

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