The functions of the National Assembly include the making of laws, the controlling of the finances of the State and also a critical role to check the actions of government and the Ministries.

The power to make laws is exercisable by Bills. All Bills, other than a Private Bill or a Private Member’s Bill, must be presented by a Minister. A Bill may be presented as a private Bill, provided it is not a Money Bill, that is, a Bill related to taxation, the Consolidated Fund or any other public fund. Every Bill which is presented must be passed by the National Assembly for it to become an Act.

A Bill passed by the National Assembly does not become law until it has been submitted to and has received the assent of the President of the Republic. The President cannot withhold assent to a Bill which amends the Constitution and is certified by the Speaker as having complied with S 47 of the Constitution which lays down that certain amendments must, at the final voting, be voted by not less than three quarters of all the Members of the Assembly or of two thirds of all the Members, as the case may be.

Similarly, the President cannot withhold assent to Bills specified in section 54 of the Constitution. But the President may withhold assent to any other bill, in which case he would return it to the Assembly for reconsideration within 21 days, of its being submitted to him for assent. Upon the bill being reconsidered and passed, with or without amendment, it is again submitted to the President, who is bound to signify his assent. When the Bill has been assented to by the President, it must then be published in the Government Gazette for it to have the force of law.

Inherent in the power to make laws is the power to amend or repeal it or to suspend its operation or even to give it retrospective effect and to delegate the law-making powers to the executive.

The power to make laws includes the power to raise revenue and authorise expenditure. No revenue can be raised by way of a tax or the imposition of license fees, customs dues and other charges without the authorisation of Parliament. Expenditure must equally be authorised by Parliament. Appropriation laws are accordingly passed to enable withdrawals from the Consolidated Fund. The Annual Budget Speech usually takes place in early June before the beginning of the financial year on the 01 July ensuing. The Minister of Finance presents his Budget Speech, reviewing the country’s economic performance in the previous year and announcing economic proposals for the coming year. There is a debate and eventually a vote is taken on the Appropriation Bill.

Questions to Ministers are put only on Tuesday Sittings and the order of business provides for a 3 hour Question Time. This Question Time allows the Members of Parliament to raise questions with the Ministers on the ministries which fall under their respective responsibilities. However, questions, including Private Notice Questions, are not put at the sitting when the Presidential Address is delivered at the beginning of a session, on the day of the presentation of the Budget Speech and when an Appropriation Bill is being considered by the Committee of Supply.

Through questions and motions, Parliament makes the Government account for its actions. This Question Time starts with the Leader of the Opposition, who never puts down a question on the Order Paper for oral answer and is allowed to set down a Private Notice Question. The time allocated to this question is 30 minutes. Next, a special Prime Minister’s Question Time of 30 minutes is provided whereby all the Questions are addressed to the Prime minister. The other Members put questions and supplementary ones to all the ministers during the rest of the Question Time on practically every aspect of their administration. Through parliamentary debates, the public can listen to a spectrum of views and opinions and find out how decisions affecting them are made.

Members of Parliament represent the people who had voted for them in the general election. As such, they are responsible to look into the needs of their constituents and to make their concerns heard in Parliament.

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