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'Speed up implementation of legislators' code of ethics'
The Herald (Zimbabwe)
July 20, 2007

The Parliamentary Liaison and Coordinating Committee has called for the speedy implementation of Code of Ethics and Conduct for Members of Parliament, which will require legislators to disclose their assets.

The recommendation is part of resolutions adopted on Monday by the committee during its retreat in Victoria Falls.

“The Committee resolves that as the Code of Ethics and Conduct for Members of Parliament was mooted in the last Parliament and that most Members of Parliament have had no opportunity to study the contents of the document, the code and its related administrative procedures be circulated to all members for their information,” reads part of the resolution.

“It is further resolved that the Standing Rules and Orders Committee expedites the adoption of and the implementation of the Code of Ethics and Conduct to ensure its operationalisation.”

The draft of the code is reported to have a section on the disclosure of assets by legislators when they assume office.

However, the information is kept “confidential”.

On Sunday, while contributing to discussions on the subject, the Clerk of Parliament, Mr. Austin Zvoma, explained that the idea of the code was adopted in May 1999 and a draft produced but the SROC kept on deferring the matter.

“Before the parliamentary reforms, our standing orders had something similar on how Members of Parliament as public officers should conduct themselves.”

“It was felt that in order for Parliament to ensure transparency and accountability by the Executive, it (Parliament) needed to be transparent itself,” he said.

Mr. Zvoma said there was a need to circulate the draft document among legislators.

“It does not pry into people’s private lives. It has a confidential and an open section,” he said.

The Minister without Portfolio and Zanu-PF National Commissar, Cde Elliot Manyika, said he was skeptical about the benefits to be derived from implementing the code.

“I don’t know of cases where this has worked,” he said.

However, the leader of the opposition in the House of Assembly, Mr. Gibson Sibanda, insisted that it was important to have the code so that legislators could be “exemplary” in their conduct.

Other resolutions, which were adopted, include a recommendation that the SROC should facilitate the creation of separate identities for the Senate and House of Assembly through delineating different roles and responsibilities for each House.

It was also agreed that thematic committees, that are subject-specific, be put in place for the Senate as part of creating separate identities for the House of Assembly and Senate.

The liaison and coordinating committee also resolved that the resolution it adopted during the retreat in Nyanga last year on responses to committee reports, questions and motions by ministers be implemented.

The resolution has to do with reporting ministers who do not respond to committee reports to their principal, President Mugabe.

As part of efforts to deal with perceptions by the Executive that portfolio committees were encroaching onto the functions of the Executive, the committee came up with a raft of recommendations.

“Committees should adopt a persuasive, rather than an adversarial approach, to their oversight role and use appropriate language.

“Committees should adhere to the two week’s notice period when inviting ministries and officials and ministers should be invited to deal with policy issues only,” reads part of the resolution.

“Committees should adequately prepare for oral evidence sessions and ensure that only relevant questions are asked.”

In the past, legislators are reported to have used strong language such as “summoning” when “inviting” ministers to appear before their committees and this was reportedly breeding antagonism between the two parties.

The committee also resolved that members of portfolio committees should not “deliberate or express their opinions” in the presence of witnesses during public hearings.

Committees were also urged not to “prematurely disclose their findings” after public hearings except in “compelling matters of importance” and in doing so, chairpersons of the committees should only express committee views and not their personal views.

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