A new bill has proposed provisions to strengthen the oversight of parliament over government action with a view to make it transparently and provide better services. The Plenary Sitting of the Chamber of Deputies on Monday, October 18, adopted the relevance of this “draft organic private member’s bill determining modalities for information gathering on and oversight of government action.” It was initiated by a team of legislators led by Deputy Speaker, Edda Mukabagwiza. As part of preventive oversight, the Standing Committees have the authority to carry out activities including analysing goals stated in the national vision, policies, responsibilities of various institutions, planning, government programmes and projects implemented under government ministries, organs and institutions falling under their respective areas of competence. The bill has also proposed that the Committees have the power to analyse Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) relevant to their respective areas of competence and monitor implementation thereof. The Organic Law of 2005 determining the methods the Parliament uses to obtain information and exercises oversight of government action has been in effect for 15 years now. While presenting the relevance of the bill to the Plenary Sitting, Mukabagwiza said that there are sufficient grounds for updating the current law in order to address existing loopholes that have long been a barrier to achieving full implementation. “The materialisation of such intended goal will pave the way for adequate oversight of government programmes and improved management of public affairs,” she said. Some of the issues identified Some of the issues identified in the current Organic Law include that though the Standing Committees are a key player in the preparation of the core work of Parliament, they are not empowered powers to engage in the performance of the function of information gathering on and oversight of government action. Also, the currently Law does not provide for methods Standing Committees, as a structure, may use to conduct, at the Committee stage, some activities related to information gathering on and oversight of Government action targeting both Government ministries and agencies placed under their supervision, and then report to the Plenary Assembly in its capacity as a decision-making body. It also does not provide for modalities for the conduct by Parliament of preventive oversight. Moreover, Parliament in no way makes use of Standing Committees to monitor the implementation of policies and bills passed into law, yet such monitoring is the effective tool making it possible to make sure the law is responsive to the needs having prompted its coming into being and organs provided for therein have been put in place. As part of efforts to update the current Organic Law, the newly proposed Organic Law should provide for, among others, the role of Members of Parliament, individually or as a group whereby they may, depending on the Chamber in which they serve, initiate the process of information gathering on and oversight of Government action. In so doing, Mukabagwiza said, they play a preventive role and make it possible to resolve identified problems. Offences and penalties The bill has proposed that any person who obstructs the process of information gathering on or oversight of government action commits an offence. Upon conviction, he or she is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than three months, but less than six months and a fine of not less than five hundred Rwf500,000 but not exceeding Rwf1 million, or to only one of those penalties. It also provided that any person who, during the process of information gathering on or oversight of government action, provides information while he or she knows or ought to know that such information is misleading commits an offence. Upon conviction, he or she is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than three months, but less than six months and a fine of not less than Rwf500,000, but not exceeding Rwf1 million or to only one of those penalties.