Parliamentary Committees are regarded as extensions of the House, limited by the extent of the authority given to them, but governed in their proceedings by the same rules as those which prevail in the Assembly.
These Committees perform a variety of functions and assist the National Assembly in its work, that is, finding out the facts of a case or an issue, examining witnesses, sifting evidence, drawing up reasoned conclusions and reporting to the National Assembly. They take Parliament to the people and allow direct contact between members of the public and representative groups of Members of Parliament.
Parliamentary Committees in the National Assembly can be categorised as:
(a) Standing Committees;
(b) Sessional Select Committees; and
(c) Special Select Committees.
There is also the Committee of the Whole Assembly: This Committee meets when the entire membership of the National Assembly is sitting as a Committee to consider a Bill or as the Committee of Supply to consider the Estimates/Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure and Statements of Excess.
Types of Committees
(a) The Committee of Selection;
(b) The Parliamentary Management Committee;
(c) The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Constitutional Reform;
(d) The Committee on Appointments;
(e) The Public Accounts Committee;
(f) The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Oversight of the Security Sector; and
(g) The Sectoral Committees:
- Committee on Natural Resources
- Committee on Economics Services
- Committee on Foreign Relations
- Committee on Social Services.
Sessional Select Committees
(a) The Standing Orders Committee;
(b) The Assembly Committee;
(c) The Committee of Privileges; and
(d) The Statutory Instruments Committee.
The difference between Standing and Sessional Select Committees is that the business and proceedings before a Standing Committee do not lapse as a consequence of the prorogation of Parliament but continue in the ensuing session of the same Parliament.
Special Select Committees
These are appointed for any purpose in which they assist the National Assembly. For example, a Special Select Committee can be appointed to consider or inquire into and, if so empowered, to take evidence upon matters and to report their opinion or observation thereon to the National Assembly.
Membership of Committees
As far as possible, the membership of a Committee is composed to reflect the balance of parties in the Assembly.
The membership of Committees varies from six to ten Members excluding the Speaker, if he or she is the Chairperson, and is restricted to Members of the Assembly in accordance with the Standing Orders.
However, the Constitution Reform Committee is an exception since it has power to co-opt experts or enlist the aid of other persons of appropriate expertise.
Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson
Parliamentary Committees are usually provided with a Chairperson and, as in the case of a Sectoral Committee, a Vice-Chairperson.
However, in a Committee other than a Sectoral Committee, if the Chairperson is unable to attend any meeting, the Committee elects another Chairperson for the day.
Election of Chairperson and Vice Chairperson
The Chairperson and Vice Chairperson of a Committee are elected at the first meeting of the Committee with the Speaker or in his or her absence the Deputy Speaker presiding.
When a vacancy arises in either the office of a Chairperson or Vice Chairperson, the Clerk of Committees presides at the meeting for such an election.
Each Committee is provided with a Clerk, who is assisted by an Assistant Clerk, a Researcher, if necessary, and support services from the Committees Division and sometimes from other sections of the Parliament Office.
As a non-partisan and independent officer, the Clerk of Committees provides procedural advice to the Chairpersons of Committees and their Members and also acts as the administrative officer of Committees.
The Clerk of Committees also serves, equally, all Members of a Committee; he or she performs his or her duties and responsibilities with respect to a Committee in consultation with the Chairperson. The Clerk of Committees acts as a Committee’s liaison with other branches and services of the Assembly.