The functions of Parliament include making laws, controlling the state's finances and taking up a critical/inquisitorial role to check on the actions of the governing party and the Ministries.
One of Parliament's main functions is to make laws for the country. Before any law is passed, it is first introduced in Parliament as a draft called a "Bill". Bills are usually introduced by a Minister on behalf of the Government. However, any Member of the House can introduce a Bill known as a Private Member's Bill. All Bills must go through three readings in Parliament and receive the President's assent to become an Act of Parliament.
A Bill is introduced and given a First Reading without a debate. Following its introduction, the Member in charge of the Bill will propose in Parliament that the Bill be read a second time. It is during this stage that MPs get an opportunity to debate on the principles of the Bills, examining its advantages and disadvantages. If MPs feel that the proposed law is beneficial to the country, they will vote in favour to proceed and the Bill will be given its Second Reading. The Bill then progresses to the Committee of the Whole Parliament or to a Select Committee comprising several MPs for it to be examined clause by clause. MPs who support the Bill in principle but do not agree with certain clauses can propose amendments to those clauses at this stage. Following its report back to the House, the Bill will go through its Third Reading where only minor amendments will be allowed before it is passed.
Most Bills passed by Parliament are scrutinised by the Presidential Council for Minority Rights which makes a report to the Speaker stating whether there is any differentiating measure in a Bill which affects any racial or religious community. If approved by the Council, the Bill will be assented to by the President before being gazetted in the Government Gazette to become a law.
At the start of each Parliament sitting, one and a half-hours are reserved for Question Time. This is a chance for MPs to raise questions with the Ministers on their respective Ministries' responsibilities. Through questioning the Ministers, Parliament makes the Government accountable for its actions and allows the public to listen to a spectrum of views and opinions to find out how decisions affecting them are made. This forms an integral part of Parliament's role.
Questions may be filed by any MP seeking either oral or written replies from Ministers
Parliament exercises financial control by requiring the Government to seek the approval of the House for its annual budget.
The annual Budget Statement usually takes place in late February or early March before the new financial year begins on the 1st of April. The Finance Minister, in presenting the Budget Statement, will review the country's economic performance in the previous year and announce economic proposals including any taxes or incentives to be introduced for the coming year. Accompanying the Budget Statement is the Budget Book which sets out in detail the estimates of expenditure showing how each Government Ministry proposes to use the public money to be expended by the Government in the next financial year.
At the conclusion of the Minister's Budget Speech, Parliament will stand adjourned for not less than five clear days and when it resumes, two days will be allotted for the debate on the Budget Statement.
The debate on the Budget Statement is followed by the debate on the estimates of expenditure, where each Minister is questioned on his Ministry's policies. These debate lasts from seven to ten days following which the Supply Bill will be passed. The Supply Bill authorises the Government to withdraw the necessary amount of moneys from the Consolidated and Development Funds to meet the expenditure of public services as set out in the estimates of expenditure.