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Here is how Parliament gathers its evidence

Parliamentary Evidence Gathering

Parliament gathers the information necessary for the execution of its constitutional mandate through its various Committees. Parliamentary Committees use various methods to gather information including public hearings, commissioned research, oral evidence and fact-finding visits. The method used depends on the nature of the issues being investigated. However, once the information is collected, it is considered by the Committee and the Committee’s findings and recommendations are compiled into a report for tabling before the House to which the Committee belongs.

Public Hearing

Public hearings are open Committee meetings that are often conducted outside the precincts of Parliament to gather first-hand information from various stakeholders in order to assist the Committee to make informed findings and recommendations to Parliament. Good governance requires that all interested and affected parties be consulted on issues that have a bearing on their well-being as stated in Section 141 of the constitution. The input that is sought from stakeholders relates to proposed or existing policies, Bills, regulations and other issues or changes that would significantly affect the public if enacted or introduced.

At public hearings, the role of members of Parliament is limited to listening to and capturing stakeholder’s views; MPs do not engage in debate at public hearings. Members can only seek clarification of certain issues raised by the public.

Commission Research

Where a Parliamentary committee opines that it needs technical expertise to unpack an issue before it, such a Committee can resolve to engage an external specialist in that particular field. The Committee Clerk communicates the resolution of the Committee to the administration of Parliament to find the requisite specialist to assist the Committee on that particular inquiry.

Oral Evidence

Standing Orders 160 and 166 of the Senate and National Assembly, respectively, give Parliament Committees extensive powers to summon any person to appear before the Committee to give evidence on oath or affirmation, and to present documents the Committee requires. The same Standing Orders also give Committees the power to receive representations from interested parties.

Where the Committee summons a person to appear before it, the Committee elicits evidence from a witness by way of a set of questions previously agreed to by the Committee and follow up questions arising from the witness testimony. Select Committee Rule 12 (3) states that during the examination of a witness, Members shall not offer debate or express their own or the Committees’ opinion on the matter under discussion.

Site/Field Visits

Parliamentary Committees can also conduct site/field visits which are of a fact-finding nature as part of their oversight function. The visits also entail Committees travelling beyond the precincts of Parliament.

Source: SAPST Training Module for CSOs and the Public on Parliamentary Processes and Procedures

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Daniel Chigundu

Daniel Chigundu is a male journalist in Zimbabwe and has been practising since September 2009. He used to the editor for The Business Connect (newspaper) in Harare, has his own news website Tourism Focus which is biased towards the tourism sector. Daniel is also working with Magamba Network on their project called Open Parliament where they do live coverage of Parliamentary activities on Twitter and Facebook. He is currently the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Parliamentary Journalists Forum, is a member of Zimbabwe Small Broadcasters Association and a board member of Digital Communication Network. He holds a Diploma in Communication and Journalism from the Christian College of Southern Africa (CCOSA), a certificate in Youth leadership training from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), a certificate in Citizen Journalism from Magamba Network and is currently a first-year student at Zimbabwe Open University studying for a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Ethics and Organisational Leadership.

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