Botswana: Role of Parliament Clear in Constitution

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Gaborone — All parliaments establish their structures and processes according to the traditions and needs of their countries, and the type of work that their Parliament is expected to do, the President of Victorian Legislative Council, Mr Bruce Atkinson, has said.

Mr Atkinson was the leader of a delegation of four from Australia, who were in Botswana for a two-day visit.

Speaking during a parliamentary oversight seminar that was held for the delegation to share ideas and experiences with Members of Parliament on Thursday, he said the Victorian Parliament was a bicameral legislature, with a lower and upper house.

The Legislative Council, he said, was the upper house, whilst the lower house was the Legislative Assembly. The assembly, Mr Atkinson said, had 88 members and the council had 40 members.

Following the Westminter tradition, the Victorian Legislative Council president said the party having the support of the majority members in the lower house had the right to form a government.

"The government is then answerable to Parliament, which is called 'responsible government,' because the government is responsible to Parliament and must present its policies for parliamentary scrutiny," he added.

Explaining the role of Parliament in Botswana, Tati East MP and Public Accounts Committee (PAC) member, Mr Guma Moyo said the constitution was clear about the role of Parliament, which was to make laws for peace, order and good governance.

Other two arms of government, being the judiciary and executive, Mr Moyo said, were responsible for interpretation of the law and running the day to day duties of the government, respectively.

"We are comfortable with the structures of government that we have as they are all independent in executing their mandates," he said.

The auditor general, he said, also had all the powers to scrutinise government accounts, adding that "once Parliament has approved that, accounting officers appear before the PAC to account."

The PAC, he said, has the power to "summon anyone to come before it and if that particular person does not come, the chairperson of the committee has powers to lock him/her up."

He also added that the PAC was more like a little court, as during the examination when accounting officers came in to make presentation they take an oath.

The oath, he said, ensured that anyone summoned before the PAC speaks the truth.

"That to me, is a strength of this committee. The strength there is you have to capacitate members to be able to ask the right questions," he said.

To ensure transparency, he said PAC sittings were open to the media when accounting officers were called to account, adding that the 'media is key and is usually the mirror of society.'

For his part, Vice President Mr Mokgweetsi Masisi also clarified that Parliament, was separated from the executive.

This, Mr Masisi said, was why "the executive after making its plans on the basis of the mandate given to form a government climbs down, if you like, or climbs up to Parliament to seek authority and approval."

"That's why Parliament is able to reject or amend or retract something or call for something to be deferred for further consultation or even instruct the executive," he added.

He also added that Parliament played a major role of checking the excess of power by the executive and ensuring the executive was accountable.

By Lorato Gaofise