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Parliamentary Committees for Greater Oversight

Press Release – UNDP Pacific Centre

[Nuku’alofa – February 4] Parliamentary committees have a crucial role to play in scrutinizing government spending and ensuring people’s views are reflected in the laws of the country. The role of parliamentary committees was the topic of discussion …Press Releases
Parliamentary Committees for Greater Oversight, Accountability and Public Participation

[Nuku’alofa – February 4] Parliamentary committees have a crucial role to play in scrutinizing government spending and ensuring people’s views are reflected in the laws of the country. The role of parliamentary committees was the topic of discussion today at the Parliamentary Awareness and Leadership Workshop for Tongan parliamentarians which ends today.

Introducing the session on committees, Lord Lasike, the Speaker of the Tongan Legislative Assembly said, “It is a sign of a healthy parliament to have robust discussion and debate. Ministers give their opinions, members give their opinions, sometimes they argue, but in the end, we are all committed to doing the best for our people.”

Tonga has seven parliamentary committees, including a first for the Pacific, a committee on climate change, known as the environment and climate change committee. The other committees include Standing Committees on Privileges; Business; Legislation; Social Services; Finance and Public Accounts; and Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade.

Speaking about the importance of the Public Accounts Committee, Sir Peter Kenilorea, a former Prime Minister and retired Speaker of the Parliament of Solomon Islands, highlighted that the Public Accounts Committee had a special role to play in ensuring accountability for the expenditure of public funds

“The Public Accounts Committee plays an important role in the preparation of the annual budget. It examines in detail the budget estimates, ensures that it is realistic and that the budget preparation follows constitutional requirements,” said Sir Peter.

Public Participation

“Tonga now has three parliamentary committees which are specifically mandated to look at national policy and development issues – the Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Committee, Environment and Climate Change Committee and Social Services Committee. These committees can all be used by members to engage the public in a healthy national debate on issues of national importance,” said Charmaine Rodrigues, UNDP’s Pacific Democratic Institutions and Accountability Advisor.

She also noted that the Social Services Committee has a broad mandate to look at many of the sectors which are crucial to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, most notably, health, education, welfare and gender.

Presenting on the Environment and Climate Change Committee, UNDP’s Governance Analyst, Brian Lenga said the work of this Committee in Tonga could provide leadership to other parliaments in the Pacific on effective parliamentary engagement on climate change.

“The standing committee on Climate Change, Environment and Sustainable Development is a first of its kind the Pacific. Like other small island developing states, Tonga is also facing climate change and environmental and sustainable development challenges. As such, the work of this committee will be critical in providing oversight over climate change, environment and sustainable development policies and programmes and also made recommendations to the Parliament on how better this issue can be addressed in the future. ”

The Parliamentary Awareness and Leadership workshop was held from 31 January to 4 February at the Fa’onelua Convention. The workshop was organized by the Legislative Assembly of Tonga with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (Australia), New Zealand Parliament, Commonwealth Pacific Governance Facility and AusAID.

[Ends]

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