The dif­fer­ent types of com­mit­tees in Par­lia­ment

By: Isaac Okello

How long would it take for 34 mil­lion peo­ple to meet, carry out pub­lic hear­ings, have bench-mark­ing trips prob­a­bly in other coun­tries, write re­ports, and dis­cuss the pro­vi­sions of a doc­u­ment, say 200 pages, word for word? That would prob­a­bly take years  since ma­jor­ity of them would want to have a con­tri­bu­tion, and it would def­i­nitely be very ex­pen­sive and dif­fi­cult to con­trol such a gath­er­ing.

The framers of the 1995 Con­sti­tu­tion of the Re­pub­lic of Uganda fore­saw the dif­fi­culty it would en­tail to come up with a de­tailed fi­nal prod­uct, and pre­scribed that there shall be a Par­lia­ment, which is a com­posed of elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives of con­stituen­cies, woman rep­re­sen­ta­tives, youth, army, work­ers, per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties, and other groups as par­lia­ment shall de­ter­mine.

How­ever, Par­lia­ment it­self gets in­un­dated with work that to have re­sults, it has got to be well-or­ga­nized. To at­tain this there­fore, it fur­ther de­volves it­self into smaller com­mit­tees so that it can move faster. Ac­cord­ing to the 1995 Con­sti­tu­tion, un­der Art 90, Par­lia­ment is man­dated to ap­point com­mit­tees nec­es­sary for the ef­fi­cient dis­charge of its func­tions, and to pre­scribe the pow­ers, com­po­si­tion and func­tions of the com­mit­tees through the Rules of Pro­ce­dure.

With ref­er­ence to PART XX, XXIV, XXV, XXVI and XXVII of the Par­lia­men­tary Rules of Pro­ce­dure, the dif­fer­ent types of com­mit­tees that can be es­tab­lished by Par­lia­ment in­clude Stand­ing, Sec­toral, Se­lect and Ad Hoc Com­mit­tees. These are dif­fer­ent in the na­ture of their com­po­si­tion, have dif­fer­ent func­tions and man­date, and time frame within which to carry out their work.

When­ever the House sits to to con­sider a Bill at sec­ond read­ing, the Speaker leaves the Chair with­out putting any ques­tion and the House then re­solves it­self into a Com­mit­tee of the Whole House. as set out in PART XX of the Rules of Pro­ce­dure of Par­lia­ment. Com­mit­tee of the Whole House refers to Com­mit­tee com­posed of the whole body of Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment, un­der the chair­man­ship of the Speaker.

There are thir­teen (13) Stand­ing Com­mit­tees, es­tab­lished un­der Rule 146 and have a tenure of two and a half years. These in­clude among oth­ers, the Pub­lic Ac­counts Com­mit­tee, Com­mit­tee on Rules, Priv­i­leges and Dis­ci­pline, the Busi­ness Com­mit­tee, Com­mit­tee on Na­tional Econ­omy, Ap­point­ments Com­mit­tee, and Com­mit­tee on Com­mis­sions, Statu­tory Au­thor­i­ties and State En­ter­prises. Ex­cept as stip­u­lated in the Rules of Pro­ce­dures of Par­lia­ment in re­spect of Busi­ness Com­mit­tee and Bud­get Com­mit­tee, a mem­ber may not be a mem­ber of more than one Stand­ing Com­mit­tee.

Mem­ber­ship to the Stand­ing Com­mit­tees em­anates from the Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment, whereby par­ties rep­re­sented in Par­lia­ment des­ig­nate through their Whips, in a pro­por­tional na­ture, whereas the In­de­pen­dent MPs ap­ply to the Clerk to Par­lia­ment to join a com­mit­tee of their choice.

For Sec­toral Com­mit­tees es­tab­lished un­der rule 175, the mem­ber­ship is also des­ig­nated by part Whips at the be­gin­ning of every ses­sion of Par­lia­ment, on the ba­sis of Party or Or­gan­i­sa­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Par­lia­ment, putting into con­sid­er­a­tion the in­ter­ests of the In­de­pen­dent MPs who shall also ap­ply to the Clerk to Par­lia­ment to join com­mit­tees of their choice.

There are fif­teen (15) Sec­toral Com­mit­tees pro­vided for un­der rule 175 of the Par­lia­men­tary Rules of Pro­ce­dure, and these in­clude com­mit­tees on Agri­cul­ture, An­i­mal In­dus­try and Fish­eries; Tourism, trade and In­dus­try; Health; Ed­u­ca­tion and Sports; Phys­i­cal In­fra­struc­ture; Le­gal and Par­lia­men­tary Af­fairs, among oth­ers. These com­mit­tees shall con­sist of not less than fif­teen (15) mem­bers and no more than thirty (30) mem­bers.

The Sec­toral Com­mit­tees are man­dated to carry out the func­tions of ex­am­in­ing and com­ment­ing on the poli­cies mat­ters af­fect­ing the min­istries they cover, to ini­ti­ate or eval­u­ate ac­tion pro­grammes of those Min­istries and Sec­tors and to make ap­pro­pri­ate rec­om­men­da­tions on them, ex­am­ine crit­i­cally Gov­ern­ment re­cur­rent and cap­i­tal bud­get es­ti­mates and make rec­om­men­da­tions on them for gen­eral de­bate in the House, ex­am­ine Bills brought by Gov­ern­ment be­fore the House among oth­ers.

The other form of Com­mit­tee set up in Par­lia­ment is the Se­lect Com­mit­tees, es­tab­lished in ac­cor­dance with the pro­vi­sions of rule 178, upon a mo­tion moved af­ter no­tice, nom­i­nated by the Busi­ness Com­mit­tee, for the con­sid­er­a­tion of such mat­ters the House may re­fer to the Com­mit­tee. Such a com­mit­tee shall con­sist of at least five (5) mem­bers, des­ig­nated by party Whips on the ba­sis of pro­por­tional party rep­re­sen­ta­tion and tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion the in­ter­ests of in­de­pen­dent mem­bers of Par­lia­ment.

Fi­nally, the Ad Hoc Com­mit­tees are the other com­mit­tees ap­pointed by the House on the ad­vice of the Busi­ness Com­mit­tee, to in­ves­ti­gate any mat­ter of pub­lic im­por­tance that does not come un­der the ju­ris­dic­tion of any Stand­ing or Sec­toral Com­mit­tee, or that has not been dealt with by a Se­lect Com­mit­tee.

The gen­eral func­tions of the Com­mit­tees of Par­lia­ment in ad­di­tion to their spe­cific func­tions un­der the rules in­clude dis­cussing and mak­ing rec­om­men­da­tions on Bills laid be­fore Par­lia­ment, to ini­ti­ate any Bills within their ar­eas of com­pe­tence, to as­sess and val­u­ate ac­tiv­i­ties of Gov­ern­ment and other bod­ies, carry out rel­e­vant re­search and to re­port to Par­lia­ment their find­ings. All these are geared to­wards mak­ing easy, speedy and ef­fi­cient the work of Par­lia­ment.

Through the com­mit­tees, the work load and the pres­sure on the whole House is re­duced, since the com­mit­tees carry out in­ves­ti­ga­tions on be­half of the House, they make such nec­es­sary trav­els, and there­after come up with a re­port and (where nec­es­sary) a mi­nor­ity re­port. These help to pro­vide guid­ance to the House, on which an­gles the de­bates should take, and when it is on Bills, which clauses are rel­e­vant. Some­times, the rec­om­men­da­tions by the com­mit­tees are adopted and con­sid­ered by the Par­lia­ment for ac­tion.

Look out for the op­er­a­tion of Com­mit­tees in the next edi­tion. For more in­for­ma­tion on the ex­am­ples of Com­mit­tees and the Mem­bers there-un­der, browse here.