The Use of Committee and Group Meetings in Enhancing Decision Making

THE USE OF COMMITTEE AND GROUP MEETINGS IN ENHANCING DECISION-MAKING (A CASE STUDY OF  ANAMBRA STATE  HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY)

The concept of comittees and group meetings. Mackenna (1974) (ibid) defined committee as “A group of individuals which is formed to consider and report on various matters which have been referred to them”. Committees are varied in their scope and purpose, ranging from a committee of a social club or church activity to the more  important committees associated with company, local government and parliamentary administ

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ration.

When once an association has been formed, it is almost invariably the practice to arrange for its orderly functioning by means of committees. In the case of learned or philanthropic so society the council would be the main body, and the executive committee is the body through which most of the business of the association is conducted; report thereof being periodically presented to the council for approval. Management though committees has been found the most efficient way of transacting business, whether it be of a body, or association, company or authority. The advantages obtained form committee according to Shackleton (1974): are

  • “The knowledge of diverse people is pooled for common good.
  • Its representation is democratic in that it is constituted by the free votes of an elected assembly.
  • Its continuity is assured, regardless of changes in its personnel.
  • Decision arrived at can be carried out effectively through official channels.

Besides executive committees, the main divisions of committees are as follows

  1. Standing committees
  2. Adhoc committees
  3. Joint committees
  4. Sub committees
  5. Special committees

Committees have gradually developed for the management fo paliamentary procedures from time immemorial. According to Harvey et al (1976).

“While a body containing many members is suitable for discussing principle,s it is inappropriate for the examination of details. The usual course, therefore, is to form a committee of a few member which can discuss. The detail of proposals and report back to the full body huth recommendations”.

With the exception of the committees of the whole House, this is the reason for the committee organization of the House of Asembly today.

Presently, five distinct committees prevail in the house of Assembly for exclusive deliberations of the activities in the House of Assembly

  1. A) Committee of the whole House

Harvey et al (1966) stated that

“The committee of the whole house is the totality of the whole House sitting as a committee”. The whole is merely translated to a committee to deliberate on matters before it and strive to reach a reasonable possibility to a solution.

When House goes into committee, the speaker leaves the chair, the mace is placed under the table by the chief whip or the sergeant and the proceedings, are controlled by the chairman of ways means procedure is less formal for example, a motion does not require a seconded, the discussion of details is facilitated by allowing members ot speak more than once to same question (although the right is usually exercised only for obstruction). Any matter may be referred to a committee of the whole house. Technically each committee is an adhoc body, which ceases to exit upon completion of its specific business committee of the whole House is of three main types.

1]  Committee of supply and ways and means

Wright F.J. (1967) defined the committee of supply and ways and means. “As the committee which deals with annual estimates, certain expenses,

such as the interest on the natural debt, and salaries of certain officials are not voted annually but are paid out of the consolidation fund Account”

On the appropriation bill and make appropriate recommendations. The law and convention require that any proposal for spending money must originate in a committee of the whole House. The committee of supply considers the ordinary annual expenditure presented in the estimates, while the committee of ways and means authorizes this expenditure and the raising of the money as proposed in the budget

  1. ii) Committees of the whole House on a financial solution.

While the committee of supply discusses the annual ordinary expenditure, any extra ordinary expenditure, such as may be incurred in erecting a building, hospital, paying the speaker a pension on his retirement on providing for the administration authorized in a new bill in considered y an Adhoc committee of the whole house, whose resolution, sauctioning the expenditure is necessary before the legislative stages of the bill can be proceeded with.

iii)    Committee of the whole House on public Bills

After the second reading of a bill, and member of the House of Assembly can move that it shall be referred to a committee of the whole House or that a part of it shall be committee to such a committee and then a part to be standing committee.

Another essential committee in the House of Assembly is the standing committee. Duggan et al (1974) stated:

“A standing committee of the Hose is a committee set us to deal with bills at their committee stage”

  1. B) Standing committee

A standing committee considers and amends public bills it is the rule of the House that all bills except a bill for imposing taxation and consolidated fund and appropriation bills and bills for confirming provisional orders, Shall be committed to a standing committee unless the House otherwise directs. The House generally otherwise directs for bills or edicts of first class constitutional importance, bills required to pass quickly, and small non-controversial bills.

The systems of standing committee have certain advantages. Details of a bill can be discussed fully, often by members having expert knowledge of the subject, procedures is less formal than in the full House and less procedure is put on members by the whips.

On the other hand, their proceedings are merely reported, so that the public does not know what is going on, while their lack of publicity often leads to difficulty in getting members to serve on them.

Group meetings involved the congregation of people in order to achieve a stated objective. Every groups meeting is subjected to the law, in that if any member fo an Assembly commit any unlawful act he / she may be called to account for the consequences of that act.

However, an assembly which is organized to promote some ephemeral interest such as entertainment or conviviality does not need to attract to its conduct legal regulation affecting the component members of the gathering apart from these rules of law which govern each member in his personal character, and which for example render him liable to prosecution and punishment of he should commit a breach of peace or an assault.

The initial stage of a bill for discussion in the House of Assembly starts in the form of drafting of the bill. Drafting is a long and skilled process. When drafting bill goes before the legislative committee of the House of Assembly, which examines its structure and details to ensure that it is generally acceptable as a workable measure.

The process of group meetings in the House of Assembly started by introducing the bill and the first reading. The first reading is purely formed, it warns the House and the various interest affected.

The bill is examined to see whether,

  1. i) It main object is to impose a change
  2. ii) It affects private rights

iii)    Its contents are covered by long procedure

  1. iv) it is similar to a previous bill already decides upon by the House in the session.

The bill after the first reading advances to the second reading. On the appointed day, the member in charge explains the background and purposes of the bill and the chief issues of policy involved and concludes by moving that “the bill be now read a second time” group meetings continue in the House of Assembly over the 180 days stipulated for their session until the House retires for recesses

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2.2   THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY

The House of Assembly is a collectivity of elected members by the state electorates for law-making purposes in a democratic setting. Harvey et al (1974) (ibid) stated.

“Democracy is a notoriously difficult system to work and not the least difficult part of it is to get a large representative body to function efficiently”

One of the reasons for creating the House of Assembly is for legislative purposes. This objective is paramount because of the fundamental human right, which is enshrined in such edifice.

Human dignity demands that the individual shall have certain rights on the other, he must have the protection of law and order so that he can go about his ways unmolested, on the other; he requires freedom and opportunities to plan his with a reasonable degree of certainty. The dejdegree to which individual freedom should be limited depends upon the prevailing philosophy of the people.

To make government acceptable there, the constitution must provide the individual with guarantees against the disorder of anarchy and the oppression and caprice of tyranny. The idea of the “rule of law” has been conceived to meet these elementary needs. It stresses the fundamental idea that the law is all-important, it provides the citizen with a shield of protection about his everyday life, it is a prepared line of defense against arbitrary government. Thus, while the law can be invoked to maintain order, any exercise of power must be in accordance with the law.

According to Harvey et al (1975) the rule of law has been summarized as:

  • “The individual should be able through his legal adviser to ascertain the law fairly precisely so that he can plan his actions with some degree fo certainty.
  • Encroachment fo the freedom of the individual must be lawful (a) Any act of the governetn or its officials must be backed by law (b) no authority can individual’s way of life (c) a citizen can feel certain he will not be arrested unless he is charged with some definite breach of the law.
  • Before the citizen can be punished a breach of the law must be established in a lawful manner before an impartial tribunal.
  • Justice must be regarded as an end in itself. Interpreting the law by the wishes of parliament or the government.

It is for this purpose that the House of Assembly  must be established to carter for individuals who dwell within the state boundaries.

The federal constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) stated.

“There should be a House of Assembly for each of the states of the federation. Subject to the provisions of this constitution, a House of Assembly of a state shall consist of three times the total number of seats which that state has in the House of Representative and the members of a House of Assembly shall be elected in accordance with the provision of the constitution”.

The House of Assembly in its composition has provided for the office of the speaker, the deputy speaker, the clerk of the House and Whips.

The purpose of these offices is to create harmony and order in the House and to reach meaningful decisions with minimum of disruption and heated debates and arguments.

The constitution of federal Republic of Nigeria (ibid) state further state that every number of the House of Assembly shall, before taking his seat in that House, take and subscribe before the House, the oath of Allegiance and the oath of membership.

The speaker and deputy speaker of the House of Assembly shall take and subscribe the oath of Allegiance and the oath of membership prescribed before the clerk of the House of Assembly.

At any sitting of the House of Assembly the speaker of the House shall presides, and in his absence the deputy speaker shall foresides and in the absence of the speaker and the Deputy speaker of the House such member for  the House as the House may elect for that purpose shall preside.

The constitution (ibid) also provides that the business of the House of Assembly shall be conducted in English, but the House may in addition to English conduct the business of the House in one or more other language spoken in the state as the House may by resolution approve.

In legislative arena the Anambra House of Assembly has the power to make law through the bills presented to it, and passed by the said House and assented by he governor of Anambra state. A bill shall not become law unless it has been duly passed and assented to in accordance ith the provision of the constitution.

Where the House of Assembly has passed a bill it shall be presented to he governor for assent.

Where a bill is presented to the governor for assent he shall within 30 days there of signify that he assent or he with holds assents.

Where the Governor withholds assent and the House of Assembly again passes the bill by two third majority, the bill shall become law and the assent of the governor shall not be required.

This House also is mandated by law to appoint committees in carrying out her function.

The House of Assembly also formulates strategies for fund-raising through various sources in order ot carry out the business of the state.

Revenues or other moneys raised by the state which are not of constitutional type are normally paid into the consolidated fund account and it requires the House of Assembly to give approval for the withdrawal of such money and the auditor general acts as a watch dog to all incomes and expenditures over the account of the state.

2.3   THE SPEAKER AND FUNCTIONS

Duggan et al said:

“The speaker is basically he officer who presides over the House of Assembly whose authority is recognized and repected by both sides of the House. His principle work is to regulate debate according to standing order laid down and convention.

Agreed on”

The deluge of parliamentary activities dicdate the need to have an individual who will act as a moderator to harmonize the various activities and session in the House. The constitution of federal republic of Nigeria provides for the position within the House of Assembly structure.

The main function of the speaker is to presides over meetings of the House in full session, a qausi-judicial task which can be fulfilled satisfactorily only by strict observance of his independence and impartiality.

It is here that even minor traditions, such as the custom of bowing to him on entering or leaving the chamber play such an important part.

But the over riding reason why he succeeds in standing above party polities is the care taken by all members to preserve his position a care that springs from the desire to make the House Institution work.

The speaker is regarded as the referee in charge of the game, like in the football world cup. Smoothly and according to the rules. His decisions are merely questioned and then only through the accepted procedure. Breach of the ruels can e punished, even by “sending a player off” or abandoning the game.

In presiding over the House, the speaker has many tasks to perform. He must ensure that debate continues in an orderly manner members must address their remarks to the chair and sit whenever the speaker risk rises to his feet. Any debate must, however, preserve the principle of free and fair discussion.

Apart from these, all important function of the speaker are categorized in the following items.

  1. The speaker safe guards the House form any undue encroachment by the government, particularly when it is trying to complete a heavy legislative program.
  2. It is responsible in invoking the closure motive

3      He is the final authority for admitting amendments, questions and subjects to be debated on adjournment motions.

4      It is the speaker who certain whether a bill is a money bill or otherwise.

5      He attends official functions on behalf of the House and receives documents and messages addressed to it from foreign countries and other legislature.

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2.4   GENERAL OVERVIEW OF HE LAW OF GROUP MEETINGS

Group meetings as we known are assemble age of people which may be fortuitous and casual or organized and contrived and its objects may be as various as the interest which are common to he generality of mankind.

Basically group meetings can classified into two types.

  1. i) Public Group meetings

These group meetings are those to which he generality of the public have access. Such group meetings will in the nature of things be concerned with matters of general interest.

  1. ii) Private Group meeting

Private group meetings are those to which person are admitted only be virtue of some specific right or special capacity as for example, a group meeting of share holders in a company.

A characteristic distinction between public group and private group meetings will be at once apparent. The component members of group private meetings will be, related by common direct interest to be deliberated and the relationship will determine the constitution of the meeting itself.

We shall find accordingly that such group meeting are largely governed by prescribed regulation depending upon and sometime to the particular connection subsisting between those who are entitled to attend than.

These regulations may be defined by contract, as in the case of a club, or by stature as in the case of public office.

It is apt to discuss the concept of illegal assemblies. The expression “illegal assemblies is used as a general description of all group meeting which offend the law by fairling within one or other of he following classes.

a      Unlawful Assembly

Group meeting with an unlawful purpose constitutes an unlawful assembly. If for example dozen men meet in a room to devise a schemee of fraud, hey assembly for an unlawful puroose and yet are not an unlawful assembly. That expression has acquired a specified significance in law and donates he situation, which exists “whenever as many as three persons meet together to support each other even against opposition in carrying out a purpose, which is likely ot involve violence or ot produce in the minds of their neighbors any reasonable apprehension of violence.

ROUT

As soon as the person addoicated in an unlawful assembly do any act towards carrying out the design which has made their assembly unlawful hey become guity of constituting a rout, it is sufficient for our purpose to notice that a rout necessarily involves an unlawful assembly.

RIOT

A rout becomes a riot at common bus when the object of the assembly is actually put into operation by the exercise of force on the part of the persons who compose it with he common intention of resisting any opposition.

SEDITIOUS ASSEMBLY

Persons who seek to incite disaffection among the subjects to bring the constitution and he governetn of the realm, as by law established into contempt, and generally to carry out or prepare to carry out a public conspiracy, are quiits of the offence, that is, of sedition. An Assembly of person for any such purpose constitutes he offence of seditions Assembly.

Before proceeding further, it is necessary to clarity the meaning of groups meeting public meeting and public place which are rife in the concepts of law of meetings.

1      Group meeting: Means a meeting held for the purpose of the discussion of nature of public interest, or for the purpose of the expression of views on such matters.

2      Public group meeting : Includes any meeting a public place and any meeting which the public or any section there of are permitted to attend, whether on payment or otherwise.

3      Public place: Means any high way, public park or garden, any sea beech and public bridge, road, lane, footway, square, court passage, whether a thorough fare or not and include any open space ot which for the time being the have or are permitted to have access, whether on payment or otherwise and public procession means a procession in a public place.

Within this ambit of discussion it is necessary for us to assess the limitation of speech with these groups meetings. The offence of defamation is always present in holding group meetings.

Defamation is made up of libel and slander. It is a tort (ie a civil wrong) to public a false defamatory statement concerning another person without lawful justification and he person defined may be by action recover damages form each person responsible for the publication and propagation of the defamatory if it thuds to bring the person to whom it refers into hatred, ridicule nor contempt. Defamation as we have seen consists of libel and slander. It will be a libel where the defamation statement is conveyed by some medium permanent or enduring in character such as a written document, a caricature, an effigy or cassettes or video cassette or other talking films.

A slander, on the other hand, takes the from of a statement by spoken word or some other ephemeral means such as gesture lussing or other in articulate but significant sounds. He law of groups meetings like in the administrative law recognizes poll voting, ie. Voting by show of hands.

According to Shaw et al (1965)” the process of taking a poll consist in he recording a votes is some documented form mark or otherwise”.

The chairman of ht group meeting, like the speaker of the House of Assembly perform similar duties which straw et al (1965) itemized as follows:

1      Determining that the group meeting properly constituted and that a quorum is present”.

2      Informing him as to he business and object of the group meting.

3      Preserving order in the conduct of those present.

4      Confining discussion within the scope of the group meeting and reasonable limits of time.

5      Deciding whether proposed motions and amendments are in order.

6      Deciding points of order and other incidental matter which require discussion at the time”.

2.5   COMMITTEES AND GROUP MEETINGS IN THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY

Committees and group meetings are suitable for discussing matters that requires expediency and important decision. Apart from the committee of the whole House, committee of supply and wages and means, which we have reviewed in the proceeding paragraphs, it is important to discuss the select committees.

Select committees are appointed by the House of Assembly to consider occasional bills, conduct enquires and exercise supervisory functions. Members, who are usually, nominated at the same committee is appointed, must not exceed fifteen without leave of the house. each committee choose its own chairman by agreement where possible, but otherwise by nomination of the major party. To enable the committee to fulfilled its items of reference, the House may invest it with special powers. Thus the committee may summon witnesses on the order of chairman (reporting as a breach of privilege any willful failure ot attend) send for paper and records appoint sub-committees, and sit outside the House in order to carry out local investigation.

Select committee are of two types.

  1. a) Sessional
  2. b) Adhoc

a      Sessional committee

sessional committee are set up by standing order or by order of the House of Assembly at the beginning of every session to exercise supervisory function. Those provided for the standing order are

  • The public Accounts committee
  • The committee of selection
  • The standing orders committee, which include the chairman of ways and means and deputy chairman. The remainder of the sessional committee are appointed by the order of the house, and are.
  • The estimate committee.
  • The committee of privileges, which consists of fifteen experienced men from all parties, investigates alleged breaches of privilege where the house cannot give an immediate decision.
  • Public petitions committee, which considers public petitions presented orally by members ot see whether they are in order.
  • The publication and debates reports committee, which assists the speaker in arranging for the publishing of debated, help in deciding the from of notice paper and inquires into he expenditure on the government press for the public services.
  1. B) Adhoc Committee
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Adhoc committees are appointed to

  1. Examine bill. A select committee on a bill, for after it has reported, the bill goes to a committee of the whole house. the advantage of committee a bill to a select committee is that special instruction may be given by the House of Assembly which could not be given to the usual committee and evidence may be heard from outside.

 

2      Conduct Enquirer: A variety of subjects is covered e.g

increase in the civil list revision of the procedure of the house. The committee’s report is presented to the House and if necessary a day is fixed for its consideration. There is also a private bills committee and this committee is made up of chairman of ways and means and the deputy chairman. This committee is mandated to note on private bills. A private ill is a bill for the particular interest or benefit of any person(s). a private bill committee is more like a court of law then a committee of the house. the battle is between the promoters who have to make out the case for the bill and the opponents, both ar usually represented by counsel. The committee acts as referee & jury “the proceedings are senu judicial with evidence being heard on oath from witness subject to cross examination. The first task of the committee is to determine whether the bill is public interest Harvey et al (1976).

The committee bases its decision on the weight of evidence, he public interest in general and the standing order of the House.

The committee work involves.

  • Petition and Examination
  • First reading
  • Second reading
  • Committee stage
  • Consideration stage
  • Third reading
  • Amendment and Assent.

The private bill procedure has certain advantages.

a  It does not make heavy demand on the House of Assembly for committee have to devote much time to it.

b  The Quasi – judicial procedure is free from political influences.

c  It is thoroughly examined by a committee unlike the other bills. Committee and group meetings constitute a very effective panacea in solving intricate problem in he House of Assembly, which whole House will find difficult to tackle.

2.6       OPPOSITION PARTY

Duggan et al (ibid) stated that the opposition is he otherside of minority government which opposes, it is a shadow cabinet” it from an alternative government when necessary.

There are opportunities in the House of Assembly for criticisms to be rained on the majority members of the house. Such periods are

a  During question time

b  Adjournment o the House

c  the daily motion for the adjournment.

The opposition party also has advantages of criticism and the legislative appraisal during.

  • the debate on the amendment to the address from he governor.
  • Debate and discussions on the various stages of the government’s legislative measures.
  • During Adjournment for recess.
  • During supply debates
  • The debate following the budget speech and the stages of finance bill incorporating the budget proposals.

Although the opposition party does not dislocate the procedure of the House of Assembly rather it criticizes those actions which may be considered as unconstitutional, ultra be and those actions which will degrade the dignity of man in a society.

They complement the activities of other members of the House rather than destroy.

In support of the assertion that the opposition party does not exist ot oppose the constructive deliberation of the House of Assembly, authorities like Jennings opined that the duty of the opposition is to oppose those measures and he policies of the government which it believes to be against the interest fo the community. when an opposition opposes it always has the next government and does all it can be by publicity both inside and outside the House to raise public opinion against government. This is does by attacks on government policy in the House itself, in debate, by question and votes of ensure outside the House by public speeches, by radio and television and by articles in the news papers and journal; the opposition must hammer home to the public what it believe the faults of the government to be and what believes proposed government action.

If it is wise, in performing the function the opposition will be careful neither to paint too black a picture nor ot make too out rageous claims on its behalf or it know tht the public is not easily misled and indeed ever resents such an approach.

Occasionally, however, when an opposite party believes that the government is holding on to power with a slender majority when the majority of the people is against it’s continuance in offices the opposition will use every method in it power to bring the government down.

According to Dugan (1974)

“such a situation occurred between 1980 and 1951 when the lories by perpetually attacking the government.

Which had a majority for only six, forced a general election and only brought the government down”.

The function of the opposition party is it provides an atternative government. Today it is much easier ofr a winning party to form government two party system (or in a majority and minority party) it means that there is only one other choie. If the government fails and there si no dissolution, the other party (opposition) forms the government.

In a political system, the parties have outstanding leaders and when the main party fails it is the duty of the head of government to invite the other party to form administration conscious of the fact that it may have to from a government at possible short notice, the opposition has in modern times developed what thought be called a “shadow cabinet” leading opposition member are appointed as shadow ministers. Each makes a special study of the policy of he government relating to his department.

The opposition is not always opposing. Basically there is much give and take in a democratic setting parties is power recognize the fact that it is very difficult to impose an effective policy if a large number of the electorate are opposed to it problem arises and situations occur which can only be resolved by cooperation between government and opposition.

This is particularly the case in wartime when the role of opposition because a very difficult one to fill. Opposition attacks are branded unpatriotic at a tune when he country is fighting for its life.

If the opposition is weak and he opposition party is disunited and torn by fratricidal struggles government also becomes wasteful, lax and on occasions, oppressive. The government of a party which has been in power for a long period because of possibly, a large majority soon begins to settle down to a period of rule in  which is generally against the best interest of he country.

It because careless wasteful, and beneficent unless the opposition is there aggressive and united, ever ready to pounce and expose the government faults and shortcomings.

Opposition in a democratic government will continue ot offer an alternative government in preference ot an autocratic dictatorial and self-willed administration.

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