Meaning of County Assembly Committees
An Assembly Committee is a group of Members of the Assembly designated to do the detailed work of the Assembly. The Members are expected to work together toward a common goal, and may work without the restrictions of formality. Section 14 (1)(b) of the County Governments Act, 2014 provides that subject to the standing orders, a county assembly “may establish committees in such a manner and for such general or special purposes as it considers fit, and regulate the procedure of any committee so established”. Committees perform specific roles on behalf of the Assembly. Therefore, their mandate and powers are given by the Assembly, through the Standing Orders (Rules of Procedure).
This therefore implies that the mandate and powers cannot be assumed by the Committees i.e. the Committee may not go beyond the scope of the particular duties entrusted to it by the Standing Orders or by resolution of the Assembly. The Committees may also not work independently of the Assembly. The power and mandate of the Committee are for the whole Committee not its individual members i.e. the mandate of Committees has to be exercised or discharged at a properly constituted meeting.
No decision of the Committee is binding unless the meeting was properly constituted in terms of notice of meeting, quorum and the leadership. Committees of the Assembly make recommendations to the Plenary of the Assembly in the form of resolutions. Their recommendations may or may not be acted upon by the Assembly or may be rejected or ignored altogether.
Importance of Committees
Committees are integral parts for the conduct of Assembly business. An effective Committee system makes the Assembly to be more responsive to the needs of the electorate while making the role of the Members more relevant and the democratic process more representative of, and accountable to, the views of the electorate. Committees are important in at least the following ways:
- They provide opportunities for public input into the legislative processes.
- They relieve the pressure of business on the floor of the Assembly and therefore contribute to the achievement of efficiency
- Committees conduct detailed investigation into an issue which may not be carried out efficiently and effectively by the whole parliament and therefore contributes to the attainment of democratic ideals especially transparency and accountability.
- Committees can conduct public hearings where representatives or organizations and experts on particular subjects may be invited to give advice. This allows Committees to be more effective in making sound decisions while allowing groups of citizens a voice in policy making.
- Make legislators work faster
- Enables legislators get full details in specific issues before the house
- Make the Assembly perform many tasks at the same time
- Meeting point between legislators and the executive
- Reviewing legislation
- Scrutinizing the county government’s activities, policies and programs and whether they meet the objectives of legislation as intended
- Conducting investigations and inquiries into matters relating to their mandate
Committees perform functions which the County Assembly while in Plenary is not well-suited to perform in its corporate form, such as
- Receiving views from the public
- Summoning witnesses to present oral evidence, written memoranda or documents
- Frequent sittings away from the precincts of the County Assembly and for longer unregulated hours
- Sifting evidence and formulating reasoned conclusions without observing strict rules of procedure;
- Carrying out inspection tours and inquiries on matters for subsequent reporting to the House
Functions of Committees
- Most important role is to Make Laws
- Understanding the Bills brought by Executive and Individuals
- Scrutinize Bills and ensure Public Participation
- Develop Bills as a Committee
- Process the Bills ( 1st, 2nd Reading and Committee of the whole House)
Budget Making Process
- Scrutinise Budgets
- Table a Report for Members consumption
- Present resolutions before the Budget Committee
- Monitor expenditure on the projects Approved
- Summon the Executive from time to time
- Ensure absorption rate capability by the Sector
- Ensure Efficiency and Effectiveness of sectors
- Check progress as often as possible
- Ensure success in the Sectors
- Make reports and recommendations from time to time
- Ensure public Participation- especially in legislations
- Always be the peoples representatives
- Take petitions seriously
General Rules Applicable to Committees
Composition of Committees of the Assembly;- (Standing Order 158)
Pursuant to standing order 158, subject to any written law, the Standing Orders or a Resolution of the House, Select Committees shall consist of an odd number of Members of County Assembly, not being less than eleven (11) and not more than nineteen (19).
Chairing of Select Committees;- (Standing Order 159-160)
A standing/select Committee shall, upon appointment, elect its chairperson and vice-chairperson from amongst its members. The Clerk shall appoint a place, date and time for the first meeting of a Committee within seven days of its constitution, or such further period as the Speaker may approve, and as soon as a majority of the Committee is present, the Clerk shall, by a secret ballot, conduct the election of the chairperson and vice-chairperson of the Committee.
Powers and Privileges of Committees;- (Standing Order 172)
Committees enjoy and exercise the same powers and privileges bestowed on the County Assembly by the Constitution and statute, including the power to summon witnesses, receive evidence and to request for and receive papers and documents from the Government and the public.
Public Access to meetings of Committees;- (Standing Order 179)
Article 196 of the Constitution provides that all Committee proceedings shall be open to the public and facilitate public participation and involvement unless in exceptional circumstances the Speaker has determined that there are justifiable reasons for the exclusion of the public.
Committees of the County Assembly are established and operate pursuant to the Constitution of Kenya, 2010, the Standing Orders, other enabling legislation and Resolutions of the House.
The Standing Orders provide for the following broad types of Committees namely-
- Select Committees
- Sectoral Committees
- Housekeeping Committees