Committee System


Under a parliamentary democracy, Parliament oversees Government administration and subjects its activities to detailed scrutiny on behalf of the electorate.

To carry out this important function, Parliament has established parliamentary committees that conduct surveillance on defined areas of Government administration. A parliamentary committee system ensures that the Executive is accountable to Parliament. It enables Parliament to probe into any maladministration and make recommendations for improvement. Parliamentary committees have been in existence in Zambia as far back as the pre-independence era. The committees have undergone growth and procedural changes over the years due to a number of factors such as increased governmental responsibilities and activities.

This system brings the legislature face to face with bureaucrats, thus increasing the information available to Parliament on governmental problems.


Appointment of Members to Committees

According to the provisions of Article 80 of the Constitution and Standing Order No. 131, the Standing Orders Committee in selecting Members of committees, shall ensure equitable representation of political parties/groups in the National Assembly as well as ensure gender representation and also take into consideration the experience and qualifications of individual Members. Further, in accordance to Standing Order No. 146, a subcommittee may be appointed to investigate in a specific matter.


Membership to Committees


Standing Orders make provision for the constitution of standing and select committees.  Standing committees are constituted at the beginning of Parliament to undertake various studies as delegated by the House or on their own resolutions and to submit reports to the House while select committees are ad hoc and are appointed when need arises for a specific purpose and have a limited life span. Each committee shall consist of not more ten members and not less than one half of members shall form a quorum. However, the Standing Orders Committee may make adjustments to the membership when need arises. The Leader of Government Business in the House, Deputy Speakers, Ministers, Leader of Opposition and Chief Whip shall only belong to House-Keeping Committees while every member shall belong to a Standing Committee but shall not be appointed to more than three committees.



Standing Orders make provision for standing committees, which are constituted at the beginning of each Parliament, to submit reports to the House. Parliamentary standing committees are classified into three distinct categories as follows: Housekeeping, General Purpose and Portfolio Committees.



Currently, the Committee System has four House-Keeping Committees as set out in Standing Order No. 149 to 152.

  1. Standing Orders Committee

            The Committee serves as the management Committee of the National Assembly. It has the mandate to consider all proposals for the amendment of Standing Orders, appoint Members to serve on a committee of the House and other duties placed upon it by an Order of the National Assembly. The Committee is chaired by the Honourable Speaker.

(ii)      House Business Committee

The Committee determines the Business to be considered by the House and other matters referred to it by the House. The Speaker shall be the Chairperson of the Committee and the First Deputy Speaker shall be the Vice Chairperson.

(iii)     Committee on Privileges, Absences and Support Services

The Committee has the mandate to examine the privileges and immunities of Members of Parliament. It also examines cases of absenteeism of Members from sittings of the House and Standing Committees. It examines matters related to the comfort and convenience of Members around and within the precincts of Parliament, and advises the Hon. Mr Speaker on matters connected to the administration of the Library, Member’s Motel and Parliament Radio and Television. The Committee is chaired by the Honourable First Deputy Speaker and the Vice Chairperson shall be elected among the members at its first sitting. 

(IV)     Reforms and Modernisation Committee

                        The Committee examines and proposes reforms to the powers, procedures, practices, organisation and facilities of the National Assembly and other duties placed upon it by any Standing Orders or an Order of the Assembly provided that in proposing such reforms, the Committee shall bear in mind the balance of power between the respective constitutional responsibilities, roles of the National Assembly and the Government and the duties of other House-keeping Committees. The reports of the Committee shall be held in camera. The Chairperson is the Second Deputy Speaker and the Vice Chairperson shall be elected among the members at its first sitting. 


The mandate of General Purposes Committees is not confined to any specific ministry as the issues that they consider are applicable to all ministries, depending on situations and the issues involved. The Committees elect their own Chairpersons and Vice Chairpersons at the beginning of Parliament, and the election is presided over by the Honourable Deputy Speakers. There are four General Purposes Committees as set out under Standing Order No. 153 to 156 and these committees are set out below.

  1. Public Accounts Committee

This Committee is mandated to examine the accounts showing the appropriation of sums granted by the National Assembly to meet the public expenditure, the Report of the Auditor-General on the accounts and such other accounts, and is also mandated to exercise the powers as may be conferred on it by the Honourable Speaker or the House. Notwithstanding Standing Order one hundred and thirty-one, the Chairperson of the Committee shall not be a member of the political party in Government.

  1. Committee on Delegated Legislation

           The Committee is mandated to scrutinise and report to the House, whether the powers to make orders, regulations, rules, sub-rules and by-laws as delegated by Parliament are being properly exercised by any person or authority according to that delegation, and that the statutory instruments are in line with the provisions of the Constitution or statute under which they are made; do not trespass unduly on personal rights and liberties; do not make the rights and liberties of citizens depend upon administrative decisions, and are concerned only with administrative detail; and do not amount to substantive legislation which is a matter for Parliamentary enactment. The Committee is also mandated to exercise the powers as may be conferred on it by the Honourable Speaker or the House.

  1. Committee on Government Assurances

The Committee is mandated to scrutinise all assurances, promises and undertakings made by the Vice President and Cabinet Ministers on the floor of the House, with the objective of ensuring that these are implemented, and to comment on delays in implementation and also the adequacy of the action taken. The Committee is also mandated to follow up on the implementation of the resolutions of the House on Private Member’s Motions and to exercise the powers as may be conferred on it by the Honourable Speaker or the House.;

  1. Budget Committee

The Committee is mandated to:

  1. examine the estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, including the Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure and Excess Expenditure;
  2. report on economics, improvement in organization, efficiency for administration reform, consistent with the policy underlying the Estimates, and examine whether the money is well laid out within the limits of policy implied in the Estimates;
  3. study, inquire into and report on matters related to coordination, control and monitoring of the National Budget;
  4. conduct Budget hearings;
  5. review Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure and make recommendations to the House;
  6. examine the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and budget policy statements presented to the House;
  7. examine money Bills, including the Excess and Supplementary Appropriation Bills;
  8. examine tax rates and estimates, economic and budgetary policies and programmes with direct budget outlays;
  9. examine public debt before it is contracted;
  10. exercise powers conferred on it under Article 203 of the Constitution; and
  11. exercise the powers as may be conferred on it by the Honourable Speaker or the House.


Portfolio Committees are provided for under Standing Order No. 157 (1) and as much as possible relate to the structure of Government. At the beginning of Parliament, and presided over by the Honourable Deputy Speakers, the Committees elect their own Chairpersons and Vice Chairpersons. Currently, there are fourteen Portfolio Committees, as set out below.

  1. Committee on Agriculture, Lands and Natural Resources scrutinises ministries responsible for agriculture, fisheries, livestock, land and natural resources;
  2. Committee on Media, Information and Communication Technologies scrutinises ministries responsible for media and information and communications technologies;
  3. Committee on Education, Science and Technology scrutinises ministries responsible for education;
  4. Committee on Energy, Water Development and Tourism scrutinises ministries responsible for water development, sanitation, environmental protection, tourism, arts and energy;
  5. Committee on Health, Community Development and Social Services scrutinises ministries responsible for health, community development and social welfare;
  6. Committee on Legal Affairs, Human Rights, National Guidance, Gender Matters and Governance scrutinises ministries responsible for justice, national guidance and gender;
  7. Committee on Local Government Accounts is responsible for the scrutiny of the audited accounts for local authorities;
  8. Committee on Local Governance, Housing and Chiefs' Affairs scrutinises ministries responsible for local government, housing, chiefs and traditional affairs;
  9. Committee on National Economy, Trade and Labour Matters scrutinises ministries responsible for commerce, trade, industry, finance, mines and minerals development, national development and planning, labour and social security;
  10. Committee on National Security and Foreign Affairs scrutinises ministries responsible for defence, foreign affairs and home affairs;
  11. Committee on Parastatal Bodies is responsible for the scrutiny of the operations and management of Parastatal Bodies including audited accounts;
  12. Committee on Cabinet Affairs scrutinises the Presidential and Cabinet Affairs portfolios (Public Service Commissions, Public Management Service Division, Management Development Division and Office of the Vice President);
  13. Committee on Transport, Works and Supply scrutinises ministries responsible for transport, communications, works and supply, housing, infrastructure development; and
  14. Committee on Youth, Sport and Child Matters scrutinises ministries responsible for youth, sport and child development.


Duties of Portfolio Committees

In overseeing the activities of the various ministries, Portfolio Committees carry out their mandate as provided for under Standing Order No. 157 (2):

                        (a)      study, report and make appropriate recommendations to the Government through the House on the mandate, management and operations of the Government ministries, departments and agencies under their portfolio;

  1. carryout detailed scrutiny of certain activities being undertaken by the Government ministries, departments and agencies under their portfolio and make appropriate recommendations to the House for ultimate consideration by the Government;

(c)         make, if considered necessary, recommendations to the Government on the need to review certain policies and certain existing legislation;

            (d)        examine annual reports of Government ministries and departments under their portfolios in the context of the autonomy and efficiency of Government ministries and departments and determine whether the affairs of the said bodies are being managed according to relevant Acts of Parliament, established regulations, rules and general orders;

                      (e)        consider any Bills that may be referred to them by the House;

                      (f)         consider International Agreements and Treaties in accordance with Article 63 of the Constitution;

                      (g)        consider special audit reports referred to them by the Speaker or an order of the House;

                      (h)        where appropriate, hold public hearings on a matter under their consideration; and

                      (i)         consider any matter referred to the by the Speaker or an order of the House. 

A committee may sit whilst the House is sitting provided that, on a division being called in the House, the Chairperson of the committee shall suspended the proceedings in the committee for such time as will, in his/her opinion, enable the members to vote in a division.



In carrying out their functions, all General Purposes and Portfolio Committees adopt the following procedure of operations:

(a) Programme of Work

At the beginning of every Session, all General Purposes and Portfolio Committees will begin their annual sessional assignments by drawing up a comprehensive programme of work which will define the activities to be undertaken in each year/session.

(b) Summoning of Witnesses

When the General Purposes and Portfolio Committees begin to meet as per their programme of work, they are at liberty to call any person and/or document that they feel will assist them in their work.

It is contemptuous for any witness to fail to appear before any parliamentary committee without giving good and acceptable reasons. It is equally contemptuous for any witness to give false information to a parliamentary committee.

In addition to reasonable expenses for transport actually incurred, witnesses summoned to give evidence before the Assembly or a committee thereof, are paid expenses on such conditions and at such rates as the Speaker determines.

Payment at the discretion of any committee may be made to any professional or other witnesses or to persons whom the committee may deem necessary to employ in furtherance of the inquiry with which the committee is charged; and the committee’s resolution shall be sufficient authority for its payment by the Clerk of the National Assembly.

(c) Public Participation in the Deliberations of Committees

The proceedings of committees are open to the public. Committees may also decide to conduct their business in camera.

Whenever necessary, respective committees inform the public through the media about issues under consideration. Those interested and with the necessary information, submit their written comments to the respective committees for consideration. Thereafter, the committees are at liberty to invite any members of the public to their meetings as witnesses.

Committees should take Parliament to the people through inquiries. Public input is important and committees should, as much as possible, promote public awareness and debate on matters such as Government policies and Bills being considered by Parliament. Committees should provide a forum for the presentation of the various views of individual citizens and interest groups.

Committees are allowed to conduct public inquiries and the media can comment and report on their activities during their proceedings and after they have presented their reports to the House. Public inquiries by committees enhance the effectiveness of the committee’s recommendations. To avoid potential for character assassinations or publicity seeking, the Parliamentary Procedures contained in the National Assembly (Powers and privileges) Act and the Standing Orders will need to be enforced.

(d) Committee Reports

Upon completion of their deliberations as per their respective programmes of work, all the General Purposes and Portfolio Committees compile their reports which are tabled in the House for consideration and subsequent adoption. Where the House does not adopt a committee report, all its contents become null and void and cannot, therefore, be used as reference material.

(e) Confidentiality of Committee Reports

Although proceedings of committees are open to the public, the final outcome of those proceedings, which culminate into committee reports, still remain guarded property of the National Assembly. Committee reports are, therefore, treated as confidential until after being tabled in the House and adopted.

(f) Action-Taken Reports

After committee reports have been adopted by the House, copies of the same, with covering letters, are sent to the respective ministries to take action on the observations and recommendations made by the committees on the various issues considered.

According to established Parliamentary Practice and Procedure, and the Standing Orders of the National Assembly, Action-Taken Reports or Treasury Minutes should be submitted to the National Assembly and tabled in the House not more than sixty days from the date on which a particular committee report was adopted.

(g) Nature and Scope of the Action to be taken

Parliaments and their committees do not govern nor do they seek to govern. Rather, parliaments and their committees have the mandate to enforce accountability by those that govern to those that they govern. The observations and recommendations that committees make are, therefore, meant to enforce this accountability.

However, where the Executive feels very strongly that a particular recommendation cannot be adhered to, it is required to give a convincing reason why such recommendation cannot be accepted. In other words, it is not obligatory for the Executive to implement all the recommendations made by committees of Parliament, provided that where differences of opinion occur, explicit and satisfactory reasons should be given.