‘Legislators lack basic competencies’

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THE quality of Zimbabwe’s members of parliament in analysing legislation and the budget, which is their primary responsibility, is extremely poor.

Report by Paidamoyo Muzulu

According to the report titled Baseline Survey on Sector Specific Capacity Building Requirements for Committees of Parliament, commissioned by parliament with the assistance of the European Commission and United Nations Development Programme and released on Wednesday, 65% of the country’s current MPs still require intensive training in legislation and budget analysis.

The report, which was handed over to House of Assembly Speaker Lovemore Moyo, made a scathing attack on MPs and parliamentary portfolio committees for lacking the required competencies to deliver on their core duties of critically analysing legislation and national budgets before passing them into laws.

Parliamentary committees and MPs, the report said, merely fast track the passing of legislation because they lack basic understanding of the issues.

“The baseline survey revealed a 70% skills gap in the committees’ capacity to analyse legislation,” reads part of the report.
The report further says most MPs acknowledged they lacked basic budget analysis skills and needed more time to study the budget before passing it.

“While committees indicated having received basic training on budget analysis, 65% still require more training in this area. Regarding budget review, members said committees were not given adequate time to analyse the budget in a meaningful way,” the report notes.

These deficiencies are further exposed when the executive brings bills to parliament where more often than not they are passed in a single sitting with very little or no debate.

Since 2009, parliament has dutifully passed all national budgets with just a single amendment, usually under the pretext that MPs had been whipped into line by the executive.

The survey reveals that parliamentary committees and MPs’ capacity deficiencies were more pronounced when the House had to ratify international conventions and other agreements because they do not bother to read through and analyse the impact before ratification.

The survey says that 71% of MPs acknowledged they were not very familiar with the policies of ministries they shadow.

The legislators said most ministries were not cooperating in terms of submitting requested information.

“The majority of the committees had limited knowledge and understanding of legislation and policies of the ministries they shadow. There is also very limited understanding of the international conventions in the various sectors.

Consequently, this has had a  bearing on the committees’ capacity in crafting focused work plans, which can assist them to effectively play their legislative and overseer roles,” the report reads.
The report notes the committees’ lack of capacity also extended to their secretariat as most of them do not have the requisite skills to help the MPs discharge their constitutional mandates.

“While the committees’ secretariat have received training on such areas as budget analysis, legislative analysis and report writing, this type of training was found to be only essential for the general skills of committee clerks and researchers but inadequate in terms of sector-specifics skills,” the report says.

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