THE Speaker of Parliament Emmerson Mnangagwa this week ordered chairpersons of the House’s portfolio committees to stop issuing public statements before the compilation and presentation of their
reports to parliament.
Mnangagwa said this undermined the good work of portfolio committees in their effort to foster transparency and efficiency in the public service. He said premature publicity created a wrong perception about the purpose of parliamentary inquiries.
“There is an increasing tendency by some chairpersons of committees to issue press statements or conduct press interviews on matters that are under investigation by their committees. In the process they express their opinion or that of the committee before a report is drafted, considered, adopted and presented to the House. This is clearly in violation of the Select Committee Rules cited above,” Mnangagwa’s statement to chairpersons of portfolio committees said.
The Select Committee Rules state that “during examination of a witness, a member shall not offer debate nor shall he/she express his/her opinion or that of the committee on matter under discussion”.
He cited cases where the standing rules had been breached. He mentioned Philip Chiyangwa’s Foreign Affairs, Industry and International Trade committee. The bulk of cases were discussed under the Public Accounts Committee headed by Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga.
Observers have said while the Speaker’s intervention was meant to preserve order in parliament, there was a possibility that public officials were becoming sensitive about revelations of their operations in the press.
“Government business has for years been shrouded in secrecy but the veil has been removed as officials and politicians have to answer committee inquiries in public and in the presence of the media,” said a former senior civil servant.
“This is disconcerting and believe me there are many a politician who believe the committee meetings are better off without the media. The other problem is that some MPs in their quest to name and shame are breaking standing orders of parliament by making premature disclosures to the media,” he said.
The media has of late been awash with stories emanating from parliamentary proceedings and interviews with members who constitute the committees.