Parliamentary Committees Effective or Not?

Posted by on 16th July 2012

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I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that Kenyans are sceptical of the ability of parliamentary committees or commissions of inquiry to yield results at least as far as the fight against corruption is concerned. A recent study done by the Institutive of Social Accountability seems to affirm that the scepticism of the citizenry, as concerns the effectiveness of parliamentary committees and commissions of inquiry, is not completely unfounded stating of the organs, “Parliamentary committees or commissions of inquiry set up to investigate corruption scandals have sometimes been simply pacifist with no intention of addressing roots causes or following through with findings. Parliamentary committees sometimes whitewash issues.”
This is a worrying assessment of the effectiveness of parliamentary committees considering that these committees are not only integral part of how the parliament is run but also a key pillar of our democracy; and that commissions of inquiry are how the government has sought to deal with the corruption scandals or unforeseen governance issues. In theory at least, parliamentary committees and commissions of inquiry are useful institutions and arguably the most expedient avenue for in-depth analysis and scrutiny of proposed laws. Parliamentary committees and commissions of inquiry are also convenient vehicles for obtaining information on controversial governance issues; and are an important for providing checks on the abuse of power within the government.
However there appears to be a significant gap between the theoretical intended purpose for parliamentary committees and commissions or inquiry and what is actually happening. The report state not only is the functioning of the parliamentary committees highly politicised but that, “politics takes centre stage and discussions are in most cases not issue based. Sectarian interests impede fruitful engagement.” Clearly the processes that facilitate the abuse of power within government structures also infiltrate the parliamentary committee system ensuring the information selected and its interpretation is filtered through the imperatives of the reigning power structure.
The committee system meant to enhance that functioning of parliament is underperforming, badly. Even worse the very system supposed to provide oversight, scrutiny, checks and balances in government is accused of being complicit in the cover up of corruption. Is there a need to review the way the parliamentary committee system is ran? Definitely. However unless MPs who form these committees learn to rise above the party political in their approach to committee work, the committee system is worse than a waste of time.

1 Comment

  • by Liban Hannan on 20th July 2012

    An interesting question. However it would be useful if you could link the study you mentioned and perhaps give examples of the committees' underwhelming performance.