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Kori, Arkmore (2022) Parliamentary Committees and Good Governance in Africa: A Comparative Study of Kenya and Zimbabwe. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00038324

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Abstract

Parliamentary reforms gradually happening since the last decade in former British colonies or Commonwealth countries following or adapting the Westminster governance model have led to the establishment of Parliamentary Committees (PCs). Little known about PCs is what they are, what they do, what they have achieved and whether they add any value to Parliaments’ traditional scrutiny, oversight and legislative roles. In Africa, PCs arise amidst some political rings dominated by strong ruling parties practicing rigid politics also known as “Big Men”, “Neo-patrimonial” or “Clientelism” because of their skills to evade and undermine democratic institutions, including Parliaments. The following research question arises: What is the efficacy of PCs in countries ruled by strong political parties? The paper uses two approaches to respond to this question. First, and through extensive document review, it studies PCs’ behaviours from earlier Westminster democracies of the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada and PCs from emerging Westminster democracies of India, Bangladesh and Singapore to discover PCs’ fundamentals, empirical variations and utility to hinge on the thesis. PCs from Kenya are picked to represent Africa because Kenya has adequate, comparable historical similarities and intriguing governance differences with Zimbabwe, the main case study. Secondly, using a focus group discussion, elite interviews, participatory observations and document review, an in depth discussion of PCs from Zimbabwe is brought in for broadening of empirical comparisons and generation of evidence based thesis on efficacy. To present and sustain the originality of empirical evidence, the document is not necessarily and strictly aligned to some form of theoretical or analytical frameworks though allusions to good governance tenets are not uncommon. The paper shows that as small groups of Parliamentarians composed of Members from all political parties in Parliament according to their representation ratios, PCs provide rigorous scrutiny and oversight of specific government departments or Ministries Parliament cannot do with the same thoroughness. In this regard, strong ruling parties no longer have complete freedom to make and implement legislative and policy decisions without difficult questions from respective PCs. Although PCs cannot force ruling parties to take up their suggestions, their recommendations formulated from a hybrid of different civil, expert, professional and political ideas add value to governance processes. They carry a lot of weight accrued from and legitimised by powers to call for documents, summon witnesses, solicit expert advice and consult the public. As a result, the paper argues, PCs humble the powers of the ruling parties without entirely throwing them out of control or pushing them to total submission. Ruling parties retain the final decision making through the use of Parliamentary majority or Executive powers to reject PCs’ inputs they don’t like, especially those challenging their hold on to power. PCs inefficacy, the paper further argues, is not only limited by bureaucratic arrogance, poor parliamentary resourcing and financing or lack of requisite legislative, scrutiny and oversight skills among Members. Safeguarded individual political party positions sustained by political party institutions called the whipping system and the obscure separation of powers where Executive Members double as Legislative Members leave PCs with little power and influence to successfully oversight, scrutinise and legislate. The document concludes even though PCs are not equally efficient, governments, even strong ruling parties, do not completely ignore their questions, suggestions or recommendations. Some, converging with government policies, are immediately implemented. Others, requiring time for alignment to national policies, take months or years. But most will eventually be implemented – and reasons are always provided for those completely rejected.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Stephen Chan and Julia Gallagher
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00038324
Date Deposited: 17 Nov 2022 11:26
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/38324
Funders: Other

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