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Over the last few weeks I have been looking at ways in which Parliament might be made more effective in fulfilling its main functions. The fairly simple administrative changes that would help include

a)      Strengthening the financial oversight committees of Parliament, by ensuring swift follow up to their deliberations, and also consultation with executive authorities to promote suggested reforms.

b)      Improving the system of Consultative Committees, perhaps by distinguishing different areas for policy to be formulated, to be then implemented across a range of related Ministries (or Departments if the Cabinet is reduced in size).

c)       Streamlining private business mechanisms by ensuring better focused questions and adjournment motions, while also developing a system of priorities for private business motions.

All these would however require a more dedicated approach by Members of Parliament. For this purpose better familiarization mechanisms should be devised. The basic training now given to new Parliamentarians deals with administrative matters but, to promote greater professionalism with regard to the business of Parliament itself, it may be best to have intensive group trainings. These could concentrate on different fields according to the particular concerns of the groups – ie a group that is concerned with financial oversight, another concerned with mechanisms for redress for the public, another looking at policy formulation with regard to the main functions of the state (Justice, Finance, Foreign Relations and Trade, Security, Agriculture and Lands, Industry and Commerce, Public Works, Local Government, Social Services, Energy and the Environment).

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Rajiva Wijesinha

July 2011
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