Mandate and Classification
1.Committees are a vital tool or organ in the working processes of Legislatures, without which, the proceedings of a Legislature could grind to a halt for the sheer volume of activities that would have to be considered at Plenary. Committees are agents, which enable Legislatures to organize their work in such a way as to perform numerous activities simultaneously and expeditiously. These include matters such as:
(i) Reviewing legislation;
(ii) Reviewing and approving the budget and expenditures for the execution of governance;
(iii) Scrutinizing governance activities, policies and programs, assessing whether they meet the intended objectives of legislation, policy frameworks and development plans;
(iv) Conducting investigations on special issues;
(v) Vetting and approving executive appointments;
(vi) Providing a platform for public participation in the execution of specified business.
2.Committees are an efficient way of running the business of the House. Well-functioning Committees expand democratic governance. Committee mandates and membership focus attention on specific issues and engender meaningful deliberations. Committees have defined mandates and memberships. They study an issue or set of issues and then report back to the House. This allows individual legislators to focus their attention on a subject matter, study it in detail and deepen their understanding of the issue(s). The Committee setting enhances the ability of legislators to be productively engaged in the nitty-gritties of the workings of a Parliament and so take ownership of its outcome. Legislators are able to discuss issues informally, are less constrained by party discipline and are able to develop relationships with colleagues who belong to other parties.
3.Select Committees are mechanisms enabling public engagement and legitimization of the operations of Parliament. It is a forum for legislators to interact and involve the public and various stakeholders in the work of Parliament. Committees hold hearings and meetings that provide the democratic opportunity for various interest groups (academics, professionals and individual citizens) with varied expertise, to participate by presenting their views on a range of issues.
4.Committees are a means of establishing institutional leadership and visibility in the public arena. Members particularly those who have served in particular committees for long periods, develop expertise. Such members become resourceful on specific issues and are recognized as reference sources by their peers, the public and the media.
5.The value and benefit accruing from the use of Committees, lie in the fact that they perform functions which, the House is not fitted to perform in its corporate form, such as: -
(i) Summoning persons to present oral evidence and written memoranda or documents;
(ii) Sitting as frequently as is desirable, including, sitting away from the precincts of Parliament and for longer hours;
(iii) Availing an environment that can facilitate presentation of details, sifting through evidence and formulating reasoned conclusions, consistent with the both the statute and procedure;
(iv) Carrying out inspection tours, inquiry on matters out of which reports with recommendations are submitted to the House; and,
(v) Forming sub-Committees for the effective and efficient discharge of varied issues within the mandate of the Committees
6.These functions are more efficiently carried out by small groups of Members of Parliament. Among the several advantages of Committees, include, the possibility of several of them operating at the same time, thus enabling many matters to be dealt with concurrently and expeditiously. Overall, by concentrating on specific matters or subjects, Select Committees also offer the benefits of specialization to both Members of Parliament and staff. The indelible advantage that underlie evolution of Select Committees at Westminster, was the ability they would provide for the Legislature to delve into and deal with virtually all sectors and units of departments within the Executive, by having these assigned to Committees other than dealing with them at Plenary.
7.The advantage enjoyed by Committees under Presidential systems is ascribed mainly to the practice of separation of powers under the system. Committees in Presidential systems have better standing in providing less partisan atmosphere in which Members can consider Legislative proposals and conduct inquiry with less control from the executive branch of government.