Select committees get wired

MPs serving on select committees will be able to get the documents they need in electronic form in the future, if a project initiated by Parliament's Office of the Clerk pans out.

MPs serving on select committees will be able to get the documents they need in electronic form in the future, if a project initiated by Parliament’s Office of the Clerk pans out.

The project’s goals also include making select committee documents available to the public over the web and allowing MPs remote access when they’re away from parliament.

The Office of the Clerk, which administers the select committee process, has put out a call for expressions of interest in supplying a document and information flows solution for the select committee process.

Lyn Main, senior parliamentary officer at the office, says the initiative came out of a review of parliamentary appropriations which recommended greater use of IT in parliament.

“The standing orders committee, which is made up of MPs, agreed with that recommendation.”

The project will be piloted for 12 months before a decision is made on whether to fully implement it in the select committee system, she says and the expressions of interest tender relates to selecting a vendor for the pilot.

Parliament has 19 select committees, which scrutinise upcoming legislation and conduct parliamentary inquiries. The expressions document notes that select committee information comes in many forms, from paper to fax to email to video, which have to be collated into paper form to be taken to committee meetings.

The system being sought by the Office of the Clerk would provide a way of tracking all the documents received with minimal handling and enable its capture, collation and management.

Under the new system, once documents have been released to the public, as many are, they would be able to be viewed on the internet.

The expressions of interest document specifies several success benchmarks, including “at a minimum [to] replicate current paper process in electronic process”, to “electronise” all documents, reduce the amount of paper and preserve the integrity of information, with master copies of documents being unable to be changed or amended.

Remote access to all documents for MPs sitting on committees is another criteria and parliamentary staff involved in the select committee process must be able to access them from their workstations. The preference is for a system that can be supported within parliament’s present bandwidth capacity.

Wireless access within parliament is another requirement, as is “robust security”.

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