PM reminds Ministers of responsibilities

Tension between Cabinet ministers and legislators over the role of Parliamentary Portfolio Committees has escalated, prompting Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to intervene.

PM Tsvangirai yesterday convened a meeting with the ministers and MPs in Harare in an attempt to reconcile the parties, which are trading accusations over the separation of powers between the legislature and the executive.

Ministers accused portfolio committees of usurping their powers and roles, while Parliament said the executive was not taking them seriously.

PM Tsvangirai called for unity of purpose for them to fully discharge their constitutional mandate for public benefit.

“I have found myself in receipt of complaints from Parliament relating to the reluctance by ministers to submit themselves openly to ongoing enquiries being conducted by Parliament.

“At the same time, I also received complaints from ministers who feel Parliament is overstepping its oversight role and subjecting them to unnecessary scrutiny and enquiry.

“While this is not a pleasant situation, I derive a certain amount of comfort from it because it shows that both Members of Parliament and of the executive are actively engaged in fulfilling their respective mandates,” he said.

PM Tsvangirai said he would work with the Speaker of Parliament, Mr Lovemore Moyo, to ensure Parliament discharged its duties without any interference from the executive.

He, however, said the conflict between Parlia-ment and the executive was sometimes unavoidable in the interest of transparency and accountability.

Defending parliamentarians, Mr Moyo said: “Parliamentary committees do not seek to intrude into the executive territory but seek to conduct independent investigations for the benefit of the public.

“Parliamentary committees must carry out their mandate without fear or influence of internal or external forces in order for them to come up with objective and accurate reports.”

Mr Moyo accused the executive of disregarding Parliament business by failing to honour portfolio committee invitations and question and answer sessions. He said last week 48 questions were on the Order Paper and no responses were received, which he said was a violation of Parliament’s Standing Orders.

Sources said the executive was particularly irked by the manner in which the Committee on Mines and Energy Development was behaving.

“The minister is summoned on several occasions to present evidence on the operations at Chiadzwa and at times he is subjected to unnecessary quizzing by the committee members,” said the source.

Clerk of Parliament Mr Austin Zvoma said the primary mandate of Parliament was not to humiliate the executive, but to strengthen its operations by ensuring accountability. He said there was no reason for Parliament to encroach into the territory of the executive since both arms of the State were working for the benefit of the public.

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