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Oversight is one of the three primary functions of a parliament. By the use of various tools a parliament has a duty to monitor the activities of the executive branch of government to ensure the laws passed and the funds allocated by the parliament are fully and accurately implemented. Corruption by government officials is a key means by which funds are diverted from the purpose intended by parliament and can also result in the unequal or ineffective application of one or more laws.

The main means by which a parliament monitors the work of the executive is through parliamentary committees. All committees should have the specific powers and authority to call evidence, demand testimony from senior government officials and subpoena documents. By conducting routine or extraordinary hearings and investigations a committee should have a strong knowledge of what is occurring in the aspects of the government under its purview.

Specialised committees, such as a Public Accounts or Budget Committee will have a special relationship with the state auditor and perhaps extra resources to investigate how funds are being spent within the government. It is often chaired by an opposition MP to ensure it is more diligent in its efforts to monitor the government.

MPs have access to other tools as well to investigate government activity. These include question periods and interpellations to allow for the questioning of Ministers about specific allegations or issues.

In order to do such work effectively, MPs must engage CSOs that also monitor government expenditures and activities. These CSOs will have special knowledge and expertise that can support the work of the parliament.

For more information on parliamentary function of oversight, please click here.