Bridging the gap between the Parliament and Executive
By Peter Duku Waniwani
There is generally inadequate knowledge of the functions or roles of the three arms of government which have separated powers or are semi-autonomous in democratic systems of governance. This article, in a brief manner, attempts to create better knowledge on the three arms of government, what their functions are and how they inter-relate. These arms of government are: 1) Parliament or Legislature, 2) Executive and 3) Judiciary.
Bearing in mind that a government is an institution of the people, by the people and for the people, each of the above arms of government is answerable to them through the Parliament. It is hoped that this article will improve knowledge on these institutions’ functions and enable the general public to know who to address specific questions and at the same time, individuals from specific arms of government would be better prepared to provide more satisfying answers to the enquirer(s).
As sited above, in the democratic world, the three independent or semi-autonomous arms of government that make it to run smoothly are the: 1) Parliament is the direct representative of the entire population and on whose behalf, it is responsible for oversight over the Executive (with the technocrats) to ensure that it performs effectively and efficiently to serve the citizens, makes laws to regulate society’s behavior to make society enjoyable for all citizens. For these and other reasons, it is realistic to say that an effective Parliament is the powerhouse of good governance.
2) Executive is responsible for implementation of policies which are translated into specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound objectives for project planning and implementation. The Executive should, on regular basis, with clear statistical indicators, report to the Parliament on its performance in achieving its plans, 3) Judiciary ensures that all the laws of the land enacted by the Parliament are correctly and fairly executed for anyone who fell short of norms prescribed by the laws and, under no circumstance is anyone exempt from following laws made by the people, through their representative – the Parliament.
From the Parliaments’ roles sited above, it is a crucial national institution for ensuring that a country runs smoothly and in accordance to the rule of law. On behalf of the population of a country, the Parliament is the ultimate supervisor for both the Executive and Judiciary. Under normal circumstances, some of the parliamentary mandates, authority or powers are demonstrated in vetting and approving appointment of senior members of the Executive and Judiciary, screening and approving budgets, impeachment of any member of the Executive or Judiciary who does not perform according to public expectations or is not qualified for the position. In a normal democratic system, the Parliament is only responsible to the people who have the ultimate authority to re-call their elected Member(s) of Parliament who perform(s) inadequately.
There are two types of Members of Parliament: 1) elected and 2) appointed ones. Elected Members of Parliament are generally elected by their own people and this implies that Members of Parliament are fully accountable to their constituents and if their performance falls short of what their voters have proved, they can be recalled and replaced by someone viewed to be more competent.
On the other hand, appointed Members of Parliament are appointed by an appointing authority who presumes such persons to be suitable to represent people who did not actually vote for him or her. In this way, an appointed Member of Parliament may be at risk of being subjected to double allegiances: to the appointing authority and those they are “appointed” to represent and; certainly, nobody can serve two masters at a time and effectively so! More often than not, if not strong, some appointed Members of Parliament may subjected to serving appointing authorities’ whims or their personal interests as they are not tied to any electorate.
The most important function of Parliament is probably, its oversight role because it ensures that the people are well served by the government. Unfortunately, the Parliaments’ oversight role over the Executive does not go well with the latter because the Executive would be happier to work with little or no parliamentary oversight. However, working with little or no parliamentary oversight would seriously erode transparency, accountability, work performance and makes public finance management to be exceedingly shadowy and challenging. The absence of parliamentary oversight also paves way for various levels of financial misappropriation, poor service delivery, widespread youth unemployment and various forms of insecurity.
Globally, the imperative oversight role of Parliament has been generally viewed negatively by the Executive mainly because of multiple interests by individuals, groups or cliques mainly geared towards financial illegitimate benefits, which are made easier to achieve due to the Executive’s custodianship of national or state finances. Because of its custodianship and disbursement of national finances to all national institutions, groups or individuals and presence around the country, states, counties, districts…, in carrying out various service delivery activities, it misperceives itself as the principal national branch of government. Because of this financial disbursement role, the Executive unintentionally or intentionally inhibits the smooth and regular flow of finances to the Parliament and, in turn, this inhibits Members of Parliaments’ effective performance of their oversight roles. If this is seen not to work, various forms of enticements are used to buy in Members of Parliament to the Executive’s side and this weakens Members of Parliament’s unity on important national or state issues. When all or some members of Parliament are swayed towards the Executive, it makes the parliament to become weak or rubber stamp and incapable of effectively working for the common or public good and this gives the Executive freehand in dealings with public finances for other interests.
The fiscal challenges Parliaments face from the Executive has given rise to the call for its financial autonomy to guarantee sustainability in parliamentary oversight, legislative and representative roles. However, it is needless to mention that financial autonomy has also resulted in some Parliaments abusing their independence in fiscal matters. This anomaly calls upon Parliaments to work hard to correct themselves in this respect for their own credibility and legitimacy.
On the other hand, in a situation when the general population of a country is largely politically uninformed or inadequately informed on the roles of the three branches of government, it also holds similar misconception of the Executives’ position in government. In many situations, this misconception has resulted into community representatives going to follow up community issues to the Executives without their Member of Parliament who would help them to link up with the Executive and technocrats more easily, effectively and efficiently. In this connection, Members of Parliament should sensitize their electorate of their representative role to avoid overlaps or duplication with their constituents’ activities which could be handled better by their parliamentary representative. This may occur if the Member of Parliament is seen as largely ineffective by his or her constituents.
The undeniable gap between the Parliament and Executive is a worldwide phenomenon and occurs in poor developing, developed, democratic, non-democratic or pseudo-democratic countries alike. The worst case scenarios occur in post-war countries where many leaders in government have militarized mentalities derived from war infested backgrounds and who assertively defend their visible and obvious inadequacies; sometimes through uncalled for rudeness, violence or repression towards voices from the Parliament to cover stark naked truth of transgressions. This calls for assertiveness through Parliaments’ stronger parliamentary oversight and constructive criticism of the Executive.
It is needless to say that the rifts between the Parliament (whether partisan or not) and Executive are unnecessary as all three arms of government are servants of the people and should in a teamwork manner or collaboratively work towards meeting the aspirations of the general population rather than creating allegiances and divisions among the same people for individual, partisan, ideological or tribal differences. The common vision and mission of all the three arms of government should be towards achieving excellence in serving the country without favor, fear or self-interest, which seem to be quite the opposite among leaders once they ascend to power.
The above scenario is not unknown to South Sudan, however, having come from a very painful past, South Sudanese leaders in the Parliament, Executives and Judiciary should prayerfully work selflessly hard to bridge the gap(s) between the three arms of government to create teamwork and collaborative approach in nation building endeavors. South Sudanese contemporary and future leaders should opt to leave office when they are still popular similar to the likes of world icons like Mohandas Gandhi, Julius Kambarage Nyerere, Nelson Mandela, David Dako,…., to leave a legacy of peaceful and voluntary exit although, with time, leadership becomes illusorily too sweet to exit.
The author can be reached via email: email@example.com or mobile: +211925552526