Friday 23 April 2021
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No travelling for Parly committees

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-6-47-17-pmParliamentary committees are struggling to carry out their oversight functions, with some being forced to cancel their travelling plans because of lack of funds, sources in Parliament have revealed.Through committee sources, The Patriot learned that some committees could not travel because of the financial situation the country finds itself in.“We were supposed to travel next week but we were told we cannot go because there is no money. This is a total disregard of the oversight mandate given to us as committee members but there is nothing we can do,” said the source.Approached for comment on the matter and asked whether the claims are factual, National Assembly speaker, Professor Peter Katjavivi, responded: “Obviously, the country is going through a particular tough period, in terms of the economy, and we hope that the minister’s statement this afternoon [yesterday] in the House, will provide further clarification.”He added that: “I wish to respond to your query as follows: This issue of cuts was discussed between the National Assembly and the Ministry of Finance, whereby the minister reassured us that his directives with regards to cuts, were particularly to unfilled vacancies and projects that have not yet started.”
Katjavivi said the Finance Minister “also accepted the need not to touch the budget of Parliament, involving institutional statutory obligations such as Parliamentary committees oversight responsibilities and Parliaments statutory participation in regional and international engagements”.New Era reported last year that the standing parliamentary committees will be the biggest beneficiaries following the increased number of parliamentarians in 2014.Critics warned that the cost at which the additional members will come might not be sustainable, but the ruling party went ahead and rubber-stamped the Constitutional changes. The members of the National Assembly were increased from 78 to 104. One of the reasons given for the increase was that most of the committees were understaffed and additional backbenchers would enhance the work of standing committees.
“You should take note that most of the parliamentary work is done in the committees and at the moment the committees are understaffed because the ministers are more than the backbenchers. Ministers and deputy ministers are not keen on joining committees because they have to attend to their ministerial duties. The tricky part is the fact that we do not know how many of the MPs will be backbenchers and how many will be deputy ministers and ministers because we do not know how many line ministries there will be,” the National Assembly secretariat said last year.Committee members are normally expected to travel across the country conducting community meetings about pertinent issues in the regions, which must be brought to the attention of ministries.
The parliamentary committees are: Public Accounts Committee, Information and Communication Technology, Gender Equality, Social Development and Family Affairs, Human Resources and Community Development Economics and Public Administration, Natural Resources Committee, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security Constitutional and Legal Affairs.

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