The purpose of committees is to perform functions which the House itself is not well placed to perform. Committees are an important mechanism to ensure oversight and accountability of the Executive Council and are described as the “engine room” of the Legislature.
Types of Committees
Management Committees deal with the internal business of the Legislature. Five Standing Committees have been established by the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature. The House establishes a range of Portfolio Committees and assigns a portfolio of provincial government affairs to each committee. These portfolio committees were established during the previous term and may change in the current term. Ad hoc Committees are established by resolution of the House for the performance of a specific task within a specific timeframe. Once that task has been dealt with and finalised, an ad hoc committee is disestablished or dissolved. Sub-committees assist a parent committee with a specific part of the parent committee’s terms of reference. Any committee of the Legislature is allowed to establish its own sub-committee. A sub-committee may only make recommendations to its parent committee. A parent committee appoints from among its members a convenor, members and any alternate members of its sub-committee.
General Responsibilities of Committee Members
All Members represent their political parties in a committee. Members must be diligent in attending all committee meetings. Members must participate in the activities of a committee. In order to be effective in exercising robust oversight, a high level of awareness and preparedness among Members is critical. Two areas of preparation apply.
The 1st area:
This involves the work ethic of Members in general. Committee work requires extensive preparation and reading prior to meetings in order for information to be optimally used.
The 2nd area:
Members must develop a sense of institutional identity as the oversight and scrutiny functions of the Legislature take precedence over all other considerations. While partisanship is a natural phenomenon in any legislature, it needs to be set aside where oversight-related matters are concerned. In such instances, Members will need to see themselves as a part of the Legislature and work co-operatively with other parties.
As public representatives, Members are not only confined to their committees. Members are also responsible for taking up issues of concern emanating from their constituencies and, where possible, refer such matters to the relevant committee. In terms of the Standing Rules, any member may attend any committee meeting and participate in the discussions. However, a Member may not cast a vote if he/she is not a member of that committee.
Members are required to sign an attendance register when attending a committee meeting. If a Member is unable to attend a meeting of a committee of which he/she is a full member, he/she must tender a written apology to the committee co-ordinator prior to the meeting, and arrange for an alternate, where applicable, to attend the meeting in his/her place and advise the committee co-ordinator accordingly.