THE Parliament of Zimbabwe leadership, committee chairpersons, senior staff and representatives of key development partners were in Bulawayo last weekend to craft a new institutional strategic plan for the Ninth Parliament. The five-year strategic plan will run concurrently with the life of Parliament. The strategy spells out the vision, mission and strategic priorities for the 9th Parliament, in order for the legislative branch to effectively execute its constitutional mandate of protecting the national Constitution and promoting democratic governance.
I would like to commend Parliament for such an all-inclusive strategic planning process. This helps to engender ownership of the strategy, and eliminates difficulties in implementation. Strategic planning is the process of deciding on and analysing the organisation’s vision and mission, overall objectives, general strategies and major resource allocations. The purpose of strategic planning is to deal effectively with environmental opportunities and threats in terms of the organisation’s strengths and weaknesses.
A good strategy entails the art and science of formulating, implementing and evaluating cross-functional decisions that facilitate an organisation to achieve its objectives. So strategic planning is not only about formulating a plan which gathers dust. The plan has to be implemented, and then an evaluation carried out to inform the development of the next strategy.
I am aware that Parliament is currently carrying out an external evaluation of its parliamentary support programme that has, over the years, been financially and technically supported by various development partners. The findings of this evaluation must inform the finalisation of the five-year institutional strategic plan.
The strategic priorities for the Ninth Parliament, in my view, remain enactment of legislation that satisfies the basic tenets of good law; finalisation of the alignment of laws with the spirit and letter of the Constitution; and strong parliamentary budget oversight that gives life to section 299 of the Constitution. This constitutional provision requires Parliament to oversee expenditure by all government entities and agencies at every level, to ensure that all expenditure is properly incurred and all revenue has been properly accounted for.
The other important strategic priority is the development of viable mechanisms for citizen participation in parliamentary processes and the processes of its committees as required by section 141 of the Constitution. While Parliament has made great strides in that respect through the conduct of public hearings, these hearings have mainly been concentrated in major urban centres, thereby marginalising the rural communities. Of course, having all parliamentary committees travel to rural communities to conduct hearings is not financially sustainable. Other cost-effective mechanisms such as use of live radio programmes to collect citizen input on issues of public interest before Parliament must be explored. Social media can also be extensively used to receive the submissions.
Related to the issue of public hearings is section 149, which speaks about the right of citizens and permanent residents to petition Parliament on issues that are within the mandate of the legislative branch. I am aware that several petitions were lodged in the last Parliament and referred to the relevant portfolio committees. This was certainly a good development. However, my major concern is the inordinate delays taken by these committees to process the petitions and address the prayers of the petitioners. The letter and spirit of petitioning Parliament is that the lawmakers must address the issues raised in one way or the other once the petition has complied with parliamentary rules. Failure to clearly communicate to petitioners the outcome of Parliament deliberations on the petition defeats the whole purpose of petitions as provided for in section 149.
Like I have already pointed out, implementation of a strategy is an extremely important component of the strategic management process. Adequate financial, material and human resources are needed for these strategic priorities or goals to be realised. And the bulk of the resources must come from Treasury, with development partners only there to supplement. Parliament has power of the purse. So this time around, Members of Parliament must ensure that the institution’s programmes are adequately funded from the fiscus.
Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Francis Mudenda, who is also the chairman of the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders, has challenged members of this supreme policy-making organ of Parliament to “take the lead in vociferously pushing for a robust budget for Parliament that will, among other things, guarantee the realisation of the strategic objectives of the Ninth Parliament.
“It will be unfortunate, nay tragic, to sound like a broken record at the end of the life of the Ninth Parliament by again attributing the failure to implement some strategic goals to the paucity of resources,” he said.
He also called on the Liaison Coordination Committee (LCC), which is the forum of all parliamentary committee chairpersons, to oversee the integration of the relevant strategic objectives into the committee workplans and that committees produce reports on their work assignments relating to the implementation of strategic objectives drawn from the institutional strategic plan.
As part of its sessional reports, as stipulated in Standing Order No 15 (d) of the National Assembly and Senate, the Speaker also called on the LCC to include a section on how each committee had realised the strategic goals that relate to it. The Committee on Standing Rules and Orders had a duty to ensure that the LCC produced the said reports timeously.
As part of monitoring and evaluation of the institutional strategic plan, the leadership of Parliament has directed committees to report progress to the LCC in their monthly meetings on the implementation of the relevant strategic goals of the institutional strategic plan over and above other legislative, representative and oversight roles under their purview. This is expected to guarantee a robust monitoring and evaluation mechanism at all levels in the implementation of the institutional strategic plan, and enable Parliament to constantly measure results, make informed resource allocation choices or change course where need be.