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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Emerging issues in oversight functions of MDAs

Background
The legislature is an institution which represents the common and collective interests of the citizens through the enactment of laws and the exercise of oversight functions on the activities of the executive arm of government.

Therefore, the major interest of a legislator is representation and presentation of the common interest of its citizens. These interests are domiciled in the various executive functions in the MDA’s. it will then be wise to say that; economic activities and growth of the nation are dependent on the relationship between the appropriation and implementation through oversight activities.

The power of oversight is conferred on the Nigerian legislature by the Constitution to enable the National Assembly to expose corruption, inefficiency, or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement and administration of funds appropriated by the Acts

Therefore, Legislative Oversight, one of the cornerstones of democracy, refers to the legislature’s review and evaluation of the selected activities of the executive arm of government. It is a means for holding the executive accountable for its actions and for ensuring that policies are implemented in an effective manner.

All these powers to legislate is vested in the National Assembly through the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

“4(1) The Legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be vested in a National Assembly for the Federation which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.”

The constitution further vested the power to control public funds to the Legislatures as contained in the Section 80 (3)
“No money shall be withdrawn from any public fund of the Federation, other than the Consolidated of the Federation unless the issue of that money has been authorized by an Act of the National Assembly”

Oversight functions serve a variety of purposes:
·         It creates investors’ confidence and attracts more private sector participation.
·         to keep the executive establishment responsible and accountable,
·         to promote rationality and efficiency in the formulation and administration of public policy,
·         to reap party advantage and to advance the causes of individual legislators’ interest groups and other stakeholders in the polity.

·         It involves the responsibility of legislative committees to review, study and evaluate on a continual basis

Through an effective exercise of oversight functions, the legislature can exercise adequate checks and balances, transparency and political legitimacy and better enforce financial regulations and policies and ensure wide participation, ownership and sustainable democracy. The legislature can create a responsible and accountable environment that facilitates the achievement of development goals

Power to Conduct Investigations
Section 88 of the constitution vests the National Assembly with the power to conduct investigations into any matter or thing with respect to which it has powers to make laws. It also has the power to conduct investigations into the conduct or affairs of any person, authority, ministry, or government department charged, or intended to be charged with the duty or responsibility of executing or administering laws enacted by it and the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated or to be appropriated by the legislature.

These powers are meant to expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by the legislature.

Emerging issues and Barriers to Oversight Functions
 Inspite of the important role that oversight functions play in nation building, there are various factors that contribute to diminish the legislature’s capacity to engage in steady and resourceful oversight of the executive. They include;
i.              Conflict of Interest (COI)-this is a serious issue that pose a barrier to a legislative functions and oversights leading to corrupt decision making by members due to vested interest.
ii.            Lack of Democratic Culture The presence of amateur legislators in great number and the shortage of staff aides due to the lack of continuity in legislative membership accounts for the lapses of the legislature in the discharge of its functions. The vast majority of new democracies lack a democratic culture, dialogue, tolerance and respect for each other’s opinion. These are relatively new concepts. This constitutes a serious handicap for the development of parliamentary democracy which is founded on the virtues of robust debate and compromise on major issues of national interest.
iii.           Personal Ambition, Interest, and Agenda of Legislators. The leadership of the National Assembly or State Houses of Assembly often demonstrate propensity for confrontation with the executive without reflecting on the negative impact on the national or public interest.
iv.           Adverse Legislative Environment The large number of legislators tend to induce the members into compromising stands in order to be noticed or to get the projects for their constituency noticed by the executives.
v.            vi. Undermining Legislative Oversight Functions by the Executive.
vi.            Other barriers to effective exercise of oversight functions especially in Nigeria can be summarized as follows; the politically charged environment of conflicting interests, antagonism between the majority and opposition parties often resulting in a stalemate; antagonism between the legislature and the government with the latter often reluctant.


*Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, @Interactive session organised by the Senate Committee on Communication in Lagos.

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