PRINCIPLE CONCEpt: Parliament and Senate Committees
‘Committees: To measure what matters!’
OBJECTIVE & PURPOSE:
To monitor on-going government operations, to identify critical issues, collect and assess information, and suggest solutions or guidelines for the legislative bodies.
BENEFITS OF THE proposed LEGISLATION:
Committees play an effective role in the smooth running of legislative bodies. Individuals who are members of such committees become aware of all the intricate workings and day to day operations of such bodies, and develop expert knowledge.
Committees are essentially fact finding, consensus building and policy recommending boards that seek to fulfill the demands of the citizens. Parliamentary committees form a link between the Parliament, the Executive and the general public. Although there are 44 committees in the Parliament at present, including standing, house, finance and functional committees, they are costly and inefficient and have failed to leave their mark in any way.
The committees through this proposed legislation will be authorized to sua sponte(take charge without formal prompting) expenditures, subordinate legislations, administration, public petitions and policies of the ministry concerned and its related public bodies. Through the legislation each working committee will be provided proper resources and expert knowledge to supervise the executive operations in the best possible manner. In addition, the committees will help the legislature in performing its duties and functions well and on time.
The legislation will become central to parliamentary democracy and allow its members to not just comment on the proposed laws and government policies, but also to thoroughly examine, research and question them.
The Committees of the two houses will only benefit if they form an effective and efficient accountability system for the Parliament unlike the present committees that are prone to taking sides, are dictated by ministers and lie under the control of the government. Once a powerful and independent Committees system is established, it will have a huge impact on the operations of democratic bodies and curb government atrocities and corruption.
Things will change with committees gaining insight into the operations of the Executives. Presently, the committees are misguided and left ignorant, because the Executives only want to give them information that favors them. However, a functioning committee under this legislation will become a useful tool for accumulating the right data and providing it to the public for scrutiny.
The right and resourceful committees under this legislation will nip corruption in the bud and create a system of accountability. Fruitful and beneficial projects and policies would be favored and encouraged whereas foolish and disastrous projects would be withdrawn. A system of checks would be kept on different departments and bodies and their projects would be kept under strict scrutiny.
BENEFITS TO THE COMMON MAN:
Committees in the Senate and Parliament essentially seek to safeguard the rights of the common man who is rarely present in government offices. They serve as the eyes and ears of the common man when they function with integrity, and strive to serve the national interest.
The proposed legislation would keep strict checks on all government bodies and officials and make sure that each one serves the people of Pakistan in the best possible manner.
DETAILS OF THE PROPOSED LEGISLATION:
There should be numerous Parliament / Senate committees working effectively, efficiently and expeditiously to monitor various plans of the government. Regular election of committee should be conducted on a timely basis. Furthermore, the committees must be nonpartisan and nonaligned with any political bodies. They must remain objective and determined, and work towards a single goal of serving the nation’s best interest.
A centralized e- portal must be created that would serve as a database for all functioning committees. It would hold details of the current issues, future plans and goals, plus a weekly performance update of the Committees. Organizational charts would be provided on the e-portal for Committees and individual members in key positions, to help keep records of their performances.
Formation of Senate & Parliament Committees & their Performance Criteria:
Standing, Joint and Special or Select committees would be the three main types of committees. Standing committees will be permanent and their functions and duties would be allocated by the Senate. Full authority would be given to Standing Committees to report legislation to the Senate. Select and Special committees would be formed for special purposes. They would be for investigating the campaigns and policies of the heads of State.
The members of the Standing committees will be elected by the Senate but the members of the Special committees will be appointed by the Senate’s President. Joint Committees would serve the purpose of legislative and administrative coordination. These committees will perform housekeeping functions and conduct studies.
Proposed Committees for Executive Accountability and Transparency
Committees are perfect systems for executive accountability. Through this proposed legislation powerful committees would be formed that fulfill their purpose. A Standing committee would be formed that brings accountability to the system and makes sure that all servants of the state holding executive, judicial and legislative offices, top ten highest paying government jobs, military and non military, declare their assets on a government portal, annually. The tax returns of such bigwigs would be made available online to the public.
Proposed Committee for setting ‘Compensation Limits’
A Special Committee would be formed for setting and regulating ‘Compensation Limits’ i.e. salary + benefits + Requirement Package, which would all together function as the minimum salary of a government employee of Pakistan. If the minimum government salary is Rs. 10,000 then the salaries (or compensation) of the following employees of the state: President, Prime Minister, Army/Navy/Airforce/Core-Commanders heads, CMs, Federal/Provincial Cabinet Ministers and others must be a ‘FACTOR’ (e.g. 10 times or 20 times) of the minimum salary paid by the State.
If there is a change in compensation of these big-wigs, then the compensation of the lower Government employees must also be changed, only then will the salaries of higher officials be allowed to change. The ‘compensation limit’ FACTOR will remain frozen for five years.
It would be the responsibility of the concerned Committee to determine the change in the ‘FACTOR’, to keep checks on salaries and maintain proper regulation of ‘compensation limits’ nationwide.
Proposed Joint Committee:
A Joint committee must be established which would necessitate a ‘board of directors’ for all public corporations, like the Pakistan Steel Mills, PIA, Pakistan Railways, etc. The corporations would have 1/3 representation of Non Resident Pakistanis (NRPs) who would work without compensation, plus experts in respective fields.
The purpose behind this Committee would be to employ the best to boost development in the public sector. Inviting NRPs on board would bring insight, experience and passion to the corporations, whereas a team of experts would reduce risks and provide the essential for putting developmental plans into action.
REGULATION OF COMMITTEES:
Each committee will have its own set of procedural rules which must be consistent with those of ‘Senate’s Standing Rule Regulating committee’. This committee would keep all other committees in check.
The committees would set up systematic weekly, biweekly or monthly meeting dates. There would be a provision of have a special meeting with or without the approval of the Senate’s chairman. The date, time and location of the meeting would be posted on the web site at least seven days prior to the meeting. The committees would put forward a timely report of a fully documented resolution consenting to committee expenditures.
There would be advance public announcement of hearings and advance filling of witness testimony. The public would also be given access to radio and television coverage of meetings and hearings unless it has been specially closed by a majority of the Committee members. Public would be provided access to records of prior committee proceedings, votes and formal public reports of committee activities.
Public hearings would allow people to see, judge and evaluate the performance of their representatives and that of the overall committee, the decisions they make, etc.
Standing Committee will be judged on performance of the various forces, the justification of the budget, etc. In addition,
certain performance parameters would be developed that are in line with the role of Standing Committees. For instance, the Standing Committee for Defense would hold hearings of heads & chiefs of armed forces (Army, Navy, Air Force), security agencies (ISI, MI, CID, FIA, etc.), paramilitary (Rangers, Frontier Corps, Special Forces, etc.) and law-enforcement agencies (Police, Traffic, etc.), on a monthly or quarterly for an overall review and progress report. As with all other hearings and suggested legislation and practices, the details and records of these hearings would be made available to the public.
Requisite working hours must be predetermined for all members of the Senate, legislators and Standing, Special and Joint committees. All individuals concerned must put in the required hours in office and provide details of their performance histories, goals, struggles, achievements and losses on an e-portal which would be accessible to the public. It would be mandatory for all members to fulfill their duties and responsibilities and record the number of hours spent making legislative decisions in parliament, working for the standing committees and time spent with people of the constituency.
Each member would be judged on their performance and diligence in the line of duty. Performance histories showing incredible progress or changes that speak of betterment or growth will be given due credit. However, those members who fail to impress and leave a mark, or voice the concerns of the public would be subject to disqualification by a defined process.
The principles of ‘Automated Removal Process’ would be applied for the termination of a Committee member, Senate members or legislative member.
AUTOMATED REMOVAL PROCESS:
At a pre-determined time interval, ideally on an annual basis, the voters will have the option of voting out their elected representative if they think he/she hasn’t delivered on his/her promises (in light of the parameters – which will serve as a gauge of performance.)
The format for this is; if at least 75% of the total voters of any given constituency (not just for the winning candidate, but the total votes cast) vote for the removal of the elected representative then his tenure will be terminated.
A one-month time window will be automatically activated at the time of the 1st anniversary of the representative’s tenure; and if 75 % of votes go against him/her during that one-month period, then the member would be expelled. After which new elections would be held for the appointment of a new representative.
Through the e-portal the public would be in a key position to gauge the performance of MPAs, MNAs, Ministers, Parliament and Senate Committees and their members, review them and vote for or against the sitting parliamentarians and senators. The public vote would hold the power to terminate the tenure of any member who does not deliver above the required performance standard. Plus, any committee member who fails to fulfill the working hours criteria would automatically be debarred from his/her Committee at the end of the year.