By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
This article was first published in the second edition of the Gambia Parliamentary Newsletter and details what a Bill and an Act are. The second edition features a Bills Tracker which was verified with Parliamentary Staff. Our reporter has visited Parliament in our quest to identify all the Bills tabled at Parliament, Bills passed by Parliament and those assented to by the President. The information will be serialised in the Gambia Parliamentary Newsletter. Download the second edition at this link.
A Bill is a proposed legislation which is under consideration by the National Assembly. Bills which have gone through the process of tabling in Parliament, considered at the required stages, approved by the National Assembly, and assented to by the President become an Act of the National Assembly. There are various forms of Bills and there are limited authorities which can table Bills. Section 101 of the 1997 Constitution and Provision 62 of the National Assembly’s Revised Standing Order stipulates who can table Bills at the National Assembly.
Most Bills are introduced by Ministers and Cabinet Secretaries. However, Bills can also be introduced by National Assembly members via a Private Members Bill. At the moment NAMs cannot table Bills which have will cause charges to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF). The President may also certify that the enactment of a Bill is required in the public interest as a matter of urgency. This provision is guided by provision 101 of the 1997 Constitution.
The most common form of Bills are laws and acts which institute legislative policy changes. For example, the National Human Rights Commission Act enacted in 2019 was as a response to the Government’s decision to promote the human rights of Citizens. This Act established the National Human Rights Commission and defines the powers and the manner in which the Commission conducts its work. Bills can also be introduced such as Supplementary Appropriation, the National Budget, Agreements with Foreign and Local Entities, Amendments to the Constitution, Acts, Loans and Grants etc.
Below are the steps which a regular Bill must pass through to be passed and become an Act of the National Assembly. Please note that this summary is not a comprehensive list of all the provisions relating to the tabling of Bills in Parliament.
(NASO – National Assembly Standing Orders 65 and 66 outlines the overall processes a Bill should pass to become an Act. NASO 67 to 75 contains more detailed explanations on the proceedings of a Bill to become an Act.)
- The Bill is tabled for the First Reading. This is usually a formality conducted by the Minister or the Member of Parliament. No arguments or counterstatements are heard at the First Reading. (NASO 65)
- The Bill is tabled for the Second Reading in which the aims and objects are discussed. A vote is usually conducted for the Bill to be subject to the relevant Committee which will prepare a Report in collaboration with subject matter specialists. If the required number of votes is not achieved the Bill is rejected. (NASO 66 & 67)
- The relevant Committee tables a report on the Bill at the Plenary and the Report is adopted either with or without amendments. The Plenary may give the Committee more work to conduct on the Bill. (NASO 68 to 71)
- The Bill is tabled for the Consideration stage and amended clause by clause. (NASO 72 to 74)
- The Bill is passed at the Third and Final reading by the required number of members. This number varies depending on the type of Bill considered by the National Assembly. (NASO 75)
- The Final Stage is for the President to assent to the Bill within 30 days to become an Act of the National Assembly. Provision 226 (2) and (3) of the 1997 Constitution.