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Powers of Committees in Parliament

The functions and powers of our committees are circumscribed by the rules laid down in the Standing Orders of the House. Parliament is reluctant to allow committees much scope or initiative to make inquiry into matters that have not been referred to them by the House. The Committees have had to operate in the shadow of the House that created them.

This may be understandable because, unlike the Congress, our Parliament is not omnipotent in law making. For example, our Parliament cannot pass legislation to make Ghana a one party state. Since Parliament is not all-powerful in law making, it logically follows that its committees cannot operate beyond the powers granted them by the superior body (i.e. Parliament).

Although constrained, the Committees are sufficiently well armed to carry out the tasks given them. The Committees can compel the production of documents and papers relevant to their inquiry. They can also require the attendance of witnesses and examine them on oath or affirmation. They can send for anyone who can assist them in their inquiry. Refusal to attend to the Committees may be treated as con¬tempt and punished accordingly.

However, by convention, the power to send for persons does not include the right to issue summons to Members to attend and give evidence. They may be invited to do so.
A Committee can also choose any topic it likes within its broad terms of reference and organize site visits to hear evidence and study operations of projects at close quarters.


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