What are Parliamentary Committees?
Parliamentary Committees are established under section 118 of the Constitution. They are established at the start of each new term of parliament. The Committee comprised of members from each side of the house. The Chair of each Committee is usually appointed by the Government. Parliamentary Committee are bipartisan and the views expressed in their reports are considered independent and free from party politics.
The Committee system is an extension of Parliament. The Committees play an important role in taking the work of the Parliament to the people by holding public enquiries on important and topical issues and report to Parliament on their findings. The Committees operate with broad terms of reference to allow Members more scope to examine important issues more thoroughly.
There are two categories of committees. They are the Standing or Permanent Parliamentary Committees that are established by law to remain for the full term of Parliament or until such time Parliament decides. Their roles and responsibilities include enquiring into the work of the national government departments and other government related activities.
There are also ad hoc select or special committees. The Special Committees are established by parliament to carry out specific tasks for specific length of time. A Committee secretariat provides administrative and secretarial support to the Committees. They coordinate committee meetings, public hearings, travel, undertake research and compile reports to be tabled in Parliament.
Functions of the Special Committee: Public Sector Reform & Service Delivery
The Committee consists of six (6) members appointed by the Parliamentary and a quorum of the Committee shall be three (3). The Committee:
- Shall have responsibility for matters relating to the Public Service Reform generally; and
- Such matters as may be referred to the Committee:
- By the Minister for Treasury
- By the Minister for Public Service
- By the Resolution of the Parliament; and
- To investigate and report to the Parliament on such matters as the Committee considers appropriate.
- The Committee has power to appoint sub-committees consisting of two or more of its members and refer to such sub-committees any of the matters which the committee is empowered to consider. The Committee has the power to send for examine persons, papers and records, to move from place to place and to transact business in public or private sessions and to act during recess.
- The Committee Chairman, or, in his absence, a Member of the Committee, may represent the Committee on appropriate National Executive Survey and engage Public Service for enhancement, review performance or Public Service and make findings for recommendation to the Public Service Minister, Cabinet and the National Parliament. The committee may represent its findings that will contribute towards improvement of Public Service performances and productivity.
Committee Members 2013-2017
Role of the Committee
The primary role of Parliamentary Committees is to safeguard the public interest. Parliamentary Committees investigate specific matters of policy or government administration or performance. Special (select) committees operate largely by an investigative process. These committees comprise backbenchers from all political parties. Senior public servants are required to come before these Committees to provide information or answer questions. Often these committees will hold public hearings to consider the evidence of experts and the interested public.
In a general sense, Parliamentary Committees represent the Parliament and the Parliament represents the people. Parliamentary Committees do the work of the Parliament and the Parliament does the work required by the people and to keep the government accountable. PNG democracy is based on the concept of responsible government and the Westminster parliamentary system. In this context Parliamentary Committees are essential for the Parliament (Legislature) to keep the Government (Executive) accountable. They are independent of Government and report to the Parliament.