2.26 Oversight Committees

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Introduction

Oversight committees are external committees that oversee the operations and activities of specific local government committees such as finance, public works, health, education, etc. These committees perform an important role in gathering information on the functioning of individual departments and ensuring, through their oversight and questioning of management officials, that corrupt practices do not take place. Furthermore, these committees which often comprise local experts, citizens and community representatives, can be an excellent starting point for the simplification of administrative procedures.

Purpose

Oversight committees fulfil the following main functions:

Linkage to Transparency

Oversight committees can be created to deal with specific issues of priority for service delivery or overall development initiatives. By virtue of their composition, they are less subject to corrupt activities and are in fact in a position to unearth any such practices from the departments they deal with in the course of their duties. These committees can be used to provide advice on simplification of administrative procedures. Complex administrative procedures often provide the opportunity for corrupt practices to flourish. Through the use of oversight committees, corruption can be considerably reduced and transparency enhanced. The formation of an oversight committee in itself indicates the local government’s commitment to public accountability and a transparent way of operation.

How it Works – The Key Elements

Specific purpose of the Committee. An oversight committee is chosen for a particular function. Usually the committee works on a single activity that would ensure the achievement of a particular development goal of the local authority, for instance, education, health, services, etc.

Selecting members. Members of an oversight committee are generally chosen based on two important factors:

Determining the functions and terms of reference for Committee. The Terms of Reference of the Committee should be as specific and complete as possible. They must be aimed at the development goal, and include a timeline with inception and completion dates a well as outputs. They could include directions of guidelines on functioning of the Committee, e.g., regularity and duration of meetings of the committee, interactions with the officials of the relevant arm or unit of the local authorities, including information gathering procedures (through records access and questioning of the unit officials).

Independence of Oversight Committees. This is crucial to the functioning of a committee. While the oversight committees are usually appointed within a local governance structure, its members are often not employees of the authority and should work as independently as possible from such authorities, with little or no interference. However, the local authority may be represented in such committees.

City Examples

South Carolina Oversight Committee on Education

City of Bartlesville - Oversight Committee for water system improvement

Further information and contacts

South Carolina, USA

S.C. Education Oversight Committee, P.O. Box 11867, Room 227 Blatt Building, Columbia, SC 29211, USA.

Tel: +1-803-734-6148; Fax: +1-803-734-6167; Website: http://www.state.sc.us/eoc/

Bartlesville, Oklahoma, USA

401 S. Johnstone, Bartlesville, OK 74003, USA.

Tel: +1-338-4282/338-4110; Fax: +1-338-4279

E-mail: mjbean@cityofbartlesville.org;
Website: http://www.cityofbartlesville.org/

 

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