The Specialized Technical Committees (STCs) are provided for as an Organ in both the Abuja Treaty and the Constitutive Act with the responsibility, in Article 15 of the Act, to: prepare projects and programmes of the Union and submit it to the Executive Council; ensure the supervision, follow-up and the evaluation of the implementation of decisions taken by the Organs of the Union; ensure the coordination and harmonisation of projects and programmes of the Union; submit to the Executive Council either on its own initiative or at the request of the Executive Council, reports and recommendations on the implementation of the provisions of the Constitutive Act; and, carry out any other functions assigned to it for the purpose of ensuring the implementation of the provisions of the Constitutive Act.
The following seven STCs, to be composed of Ministers or senior officials responsible for each respective sector, are provided for in the Act: the Committee on Rural Economy and Agricultural Matters; the Committee on Monetary and Financial Affairs; the Committee on Trade, Customs and Immigration Matters; the Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, Energy, Natural Resources and Environment; the Committee on Transport, Communications and Tourism; the Committee on Health, Labour and Social Affairs; and, the Committee on Education, Culture and Human Resources.
Execution of Statutory Functions and Audit Findings
Since its inception about four years ago, the AU has been grappling with the challenge of making the STCs a reality. The terms of reference and the modalities for the functioning of the STCs remain unclear, and so is the challenge of how these bodies are to relate to existing structures and programmes of the Union, the RECs, and national level Ministerial configurations. The Commission was, accordingly, directed by the first Ordinary Session of the Assembly held in Durban (July 2002) and the Executive Council meetings in Maputo (July 2003) and Banjul (July 2006), to examine all the key aspects relating to the operationalisation of the STCs. Thus the Commission prepared a report on the STCs for consideration at the 10th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council (January 2007).
Clearly, and this is evident from studies conducted by the Commission on the subject, the STC model envisaged in the Act would have to be revisited if these bodies are to see the light of day. Firstly, the sectoral clustering of the envisaged STCs is not optimally aligned with the portfolios of the Commission and sectoral Ministries at country-level. For example, a meeting of the Health, Labour and Social Affairs will have to be attended by three or four ministers from Member States, which makes the cost of participation prohibitive.
Secondly, some sectoral Ministers from Member States are already meeting on annual basis within the AU and the United Nations system to develop and elaborate programmes whose objectives are not necessarily informed by the STCs model. For example, Ministers of Public Administration have been meeting since 1994 and have developed a programme, the implementation of which is overseen by a Bureau that meets on regular basis. This then brings in the third and last point: that some key sectors, such as public administration and water affairs, are not among the seven envisaged STCs clusters. Yet, not only are the sectoral Ministers already meeting as indicated above, but also those sectors themselves are critical to the realisation of the Union objectives.
The Panel has carefully examined the alternative proposal on STCs submitted by the Commission to the Executive Council. The proposal seeks to increase the number of STCs from seven to nineteen with a cost implication of $1,167,721. However, the Panel finds that the cost implications of such an increase are grossly under-estimated. Moreover, the proposal fails to consider other important factors. First of all, the meetings -schedule of the STCs, given their mandate, will be issue and sector-driven, not a bureaucratic exercise. Secondly, the STCs will have to meet at different levels (ministerial, ambassadorial, and senior officials, for example) if they are to be effective. Meetings will have to be held not only at the AU headquarters but also at sub-regional and country levels. The cost implications here are not limited to the AU, but will also affect the Member States. Finally, the Commission’s proposal does not take into account the capacity of the Commission itself to service such a large number of STCs.
The Panel is, therefore, of the view that the whole STCs model should be unbundled and more focus given to strengthening the effectiveness and capacity of the Council of Ministers.
The Panel recommends that:
The STCs which are provided for under Article 14(3) of the Act, should be transformed into a Council of Ministers. They may establish their own technical preparatory Committees.
CHAPTER FIVE: ASSESSMENT OF THE ORGANS OF THE UNION
This chapter examines the power and legal authority of the Commission. It analyses the performance of the Commission in operationalising the Strategic Plan and its internal governance in terms of its planning systems, human resources and financial management. The relationship of the Commission with the Permanent Representatives Committee and the Office of the Chairperson of the Assembly is also analysed.