PAP Bureau and the journey so far - AFRICAN PARLIAMENTARY NEWS



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Wednesday, October 5, 2022

PAP Bureau and the journey so far

By Olu. Ibekwe

The current Bureau of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), elected on 29 June 2022 is about to clock 100 days in office. Given the high expectations on them after two years of inaction, it will not be out of place to review their performance when placed side-by-side with their campaign promises.

Without mincing words, I must admit that in his campaign speech prior to election as President, H. E. Hon. Chief Fortune Charumbira acknowledged that the task ahead “is daunting and I stand before you today, fully aware of those challenges and promise that if elected as your President, and all of us working together with a unity of purpose, we shall begin to address those challenges”.

First, H. E. Chief Charumbira appreciated the fact that Committees are the engine room of parliamentary activities and to help the parliament to begin to address the challenges facing the African continent, he promised that the Permanent Committees will need be restructured and properly staffed and funded. Parliamentarians assigned to various Committees will have to “show commitment by attending scheduled meetings as we plan to increase the frequency and duration of Committee Sittings”.

Secondly, Charumbira promised to work to enhance the Parliament’s institutional architecture to enable it to be affective in responding to the contemporary challenges and imperatives confronting Africa. He stressed the need to re-align the priorities of the Bureau as the organ responsible for the administration and management of the affairs of the parliament so to create a conducive environment for addressing issues affecting Parliament, MPs, Staff of parliament, organization, finances and relations with external stakeholders.

He promised to work assiduously with the Bureau and other leadership structures at PAP to put in place, the institutional mechanisms that will enhance the effectiveness of PAP’s Permanent Committees to meaningfully act as the engine room of the business of Parliament. This included increasing the frequency and number of Committee Sitting days so that they can be able to meaningfully discuss issues that will accelerate the rapid economic development and transformation of the continent in line with the imperatives of Agenda 2063, the Sustainable Development Goals and the African Renaissance Agenda.

The issue of the status of Members of the Pan-African Parliament in terms of precedence, benefits and hierarchy is an area which he promised to look into if elected. He promised to work with the Bureau to ensure that the status of Members of Parliament is clarified and codified. According to Chief Charumbira, members of the Pan-African Parliament are elected representatives of the people of Africa and ought to be treated as such. He insisted that MPs should not be flying in economy class when they take part in election observation missions and we should have more of our members taking part in such missions.

He maintained that PAP’s deteriorating relationship with the other organs and institutions of the African Union (AU) needed to be improved if the parliament must achieve results. Officials of the Union must be accountable and responsive to PAP’s requests for clarification on certain identified issues. The Budget of the Union must be regularly and timely submitted to the parliament for legislative input before submission for approval by the Assembly as required by the PAP Protocol.

It is gratifying to note that after reviewing the issues raised during the campaigns as well as the campaign promises on the basis of which they were elected, one cannot but conclude that the Chief Charumbira led PAP Bureau did hit the ground running.

A review of the activities of the PAP Bureau in the last three months will convince even his most ardent critics that H. E. Chief Charumbira has demonstrated an unquestionable and incomparable knowledge and understanding of AU structures, systems and organs having in the past, participated in several meetings of the policy organs of the African Union (AU) which enabled him to acquire the knowledge of the institutional setup and structures of the AU.

Arguably, the one of the greatest achievements of the Chief Charumbira led Bureau is PAP’s seamless return to parliamentary normalcy and full operational functionality after two years of inaction. This has enabled PAP to rightfully take its role as the third highest organ of the AU.

An example of this can be seen from the way members of PAP Bureau were warmly received at the 41st Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union and 4th Mid-Year Coordination Meeting in Lusaka, Zambia during which the Executive Council pledged her commitment to support the PAP Bureau in the discharge of its mandate. This support was demonstrated when PAP’s request for a Supplementary Budget to support Committee activities, fact-finding missions, Bureau activities and plenary sessions, among others was favourably received.

The said reception has rekindled a new spirit and interest to embrace PAP’s agenda with an overwhelming expression of support for its institutional programmes. This has also been demonstrated by the unprecedented number of Ambassadors and national Parliaments that have expressed support for the Bureau, requested for courtesy calls and/or invited the Bureau and the PAP to participate in various parliamentary activities. Expectedly, the Bureau has so far taken advantage of this new found support to strengthen bilateral and multilateral relations in pursuit of continental integration.

In the spirit of collectively embracing a paradigm shift in the parliamentary discourse, the principle of rotational leadership has been cascaded throughout all the structures of the Parliament such that for the first time in the history of PAP, Rule 22(6) of the Rules of Procedure of PAP was complied with. As a result, each Region now chairs at least two Committees, deputizes in at least two Committees and has at least two rapporteurs. In so doing, the Bureau underlined its commitment to the abiding values of fairness, equity and justice within the Parliament by ensuring that no Region exercises undue dominance over the other.

It is also noteworthy that the Bureau has assured that it will follow the same procedure in the recruitment of staff to fill the vacant positions recently announced in order to guarantee that the cosmopolitan nature of our continent is reflected even in its staff complement.

On the promise of restructuring of the PAP Permanent Committees, the Bureau has kick-started the process by receiving submissions from the Regional Caucuses after their consultative meetings following a three-day strategic workshop for members of the parliament which took place from 22 – 24 August 2022. This is expected to result in increasing the number of Committees from eleven to between fifteen and seventeen.

With the theme “Reviving, Renewing, Repositioning and Reinvigorating the Pan African Parliament”, the August 2022 workshop was in furtherance of the promise to put in place, institutional mechanisms that will enhance the effectiveness of the Parliament.

Another promise that has been fulfilled is that the duration of the 2022 August Committee Sittings was increased from the usual one week to two weeks and from available information, the duration of the October 2022 Session will also increase from the usual two weeks to three weeks.

The review of the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament to identify the gaps and possible areas of revision was preliminarily discussed by the Regional Caucuses as part of the August 2022 Capacity Building Workshop and the Review is expected to take centre stage during the October 2022 Session.

Having successfully hosted the 11th Conference of the Speakers of Regional and National Parliaments in Africa and in its determination to operationalize the resolutions adopted and ensure implementation thereof, the Chief Charumbira led Bureau went a step further to develop an action plan with clear and measurable outcomes.

By this process, the issues identified during the Speakers Conference were articulated and a mechanism for follow-up reports developed so as to be able to track the level of compliance and impact on AU developmental blueprints such as Agenda 2063 and AfCFTA and its trajectory for a sustained commitment to inclusive growth and for Africa’s socio-economic development.

To address issues such as the allowances and welfare of the MPs, the Bureau is expected to hold a retreat with the Permanent Representatives Committee this month to address them. The Bureau had earlier met with the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security in the African Union Commission where the issue of MPs participation in U election observation missions were addressed.

It is thus obvious that the Charumbira led PAP Bureau actually hit the ground running from the very day of their election and has left no one in doubt as to their ability to “walk the talk”! 

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