Committees play a very important role in the legislative and oversight process and are often referred as the “engine-rooms” of parliament. All bills must be debated and passed by a vote in the House before they can become acts. Committees are required to study legislation in detail so that comprehensive preliminary debate takes place before the legislation goes to the House for further debate and decision. The standing rules of the provincial parliament make provision for the establishment of two types of select committees, viz standing committees and ad hoc committees.
Besides providing an avenue for debate, standing committees also investigate matters of public importance, hold public hearings and receive submissions from the public. In this manner, the views of the people are taken into account before a bill is passed in parliament. Committee meetings are generally open to the public and the public is encouraged to attend.
A standing select committee consists of no fewer than 5 and no more than 20 members representing, as far as possible, all parties. The Rules Committee decides the ratio in which members will be appointed to a committee. In practice, the number of members per party appointed to a committee is generally proportionate to the number of seats that party has in the provincial parliament. Minority parties that do not have enough members to serve on all committees can indicate their preference as to which committee they would like to participate in.
The presence of at least one third of the committee members is required to constitute a quorum. A question may only be decided if a majority of the members represented on the committee are present. Unless the Rules Committee has appointed a chairperson or deputy chairperson, the members of each standing committee may elect a chairperson and a deputy chairperson from amongst themselves.
Ad hoc committees
Ad hoc committees are formed through the same process as standing committees. The difference between ad hoc committees and standing committees is that ad hoc committees are appointed by resolution of the House to investigate specific issues or to carry out particular assignments. Unlike their more permanent counterparts, ad hoc committees dissolve as soon as their investigation or assignment has been completed.
Internal or House committees
Both the national and the provincial constitutions provide that the provincial parliament must establish a Rules Committee to make rules and orders concerning the business of parliament and to determine procedures to facilitate the legislative process.