Members of Parliament in Kenya have been jostling to be part of at least one Parliament Committee. And people have been asking, why is this so important to them?
Well, one would say some want to be in those committees because of allowances and the privileges that come with the membership. Who doesn’t like money?
But is money the only issue why Parliament Committees are so important to MPs and their constituencies? No. That is not the case.
It is important to note that 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.
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 Senators 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 Senators to be productively engaged in the nitty-gritties of the workings of a Parliament and so take ownership of its outcome.
Senators 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.
Select Committees are mechanisms enabling public engagement and legitimization of the operations of Parliament.
It is a forum for Senators 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.
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.
Most functions in Parliament are more efficiently carried out by small groups of MPs or Senators.
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 Senators 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.