n Journal of Public Administration - On the path to acquiring independent information for enhancing law-making, oversight and public participation

Special issue 1
  • ISSN : 0036-0767



Access to reliable, timely information is integral to the effective and efficient functioning of the legislature in a democracy. Members of legislatures need information as they monitor and evaluate issues, develop policy options, predict consequences, and influence government decision-making.They need information in order to monitor the success of on-going programmes and/or to identify areas of weakness. The concept 'information' can be idefined as 'data that has been verified to be accurate and timely; is specific and organised for a purpose; is presented within a context that gives meaning and relevance; and that can lead to an increase in understanding and decrease in uncertainty'. A piece of information is valueless if things remain unchanged after the information has been received. Hence, the value of independent information lies in its ability to affect decision-making in the legislature.

The legislature transacts business largely on the basis of information received from various government departments in plenary sessions and committees. In the legislative environment we must accept that the government has a large volume of information and brings this information to the legislature to influence it to take certain decisions. It is for this reason that all papers, reports and documents received are formally tabled in the legislature. In terms of access to information, the capacity of government far exceeds that of legislatures. How then can legislatures use other sources of information to level the playing field?

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