Committees can be set up by individuals within the organizations as well. Committees can be either standing committees or specific purpose committees. There can be a syllabus committee, publicity committee, reception committee, enquiry committee, tariff revision committee or screening committee depending on the task being addressed. Not all committees need to be high-level or high-power committees.
There can be smaller committees at the unit level, which may study a specific area of concern or relevance and submit a report thereon. Reports of the committees may range from just a few pages to voluminous ones, running to hundreds of pages.
The very fact that committees generally comprise several members ensures that the deliberations, findings and recommendations reflect collective wisdom. While constituting a committee, care is taken to ensure that people with all relevant diverse backgrounds, functional areas and interest groups that are germane to the subject under study are included.
Further, as and when necessary, the committees also seek the views and services of specialists or experts on the subject. This will ensure that the committee reports are of a high order, duly reflecting the erudition of the members.
Keeping track of committee deliberations on an ongoing basis and presenting the views and recommendations in a comprehensive and cogent manner calls for tremendous skills. That is the reason why convenors, member secretaries and committee secretariats are selected with due care.
They should extend requisite support to the chairman and other members by organizing relevant data, putting up appropriate background papers, ensuring the participation of all concerned, facilitating intense and fruitful deliberations and finally preparing a worthwhile report.
All this calls for very systematic and organized efforts from the very beginning, i.e., from committee formation. Some key areas that need attention in the context of ensuring fruitful committee deliberations and bringing out authentic reports are presented below.
Terms of Reference:
The terms of reference constitute the starting point for any committee proceedings. They lay down the scope of the study in clear terms. They provide the mandate or authority for undertaking the business of the committee.
Very often, committees covering areas of far-reaching significance are created with legal sanction and are vested with substantial powers to collect data, summon witnesses and interview people.
The terms of reference framed by the authority constituting the committee clearly slate the specific areas which the committee has to look into. The terms of reference are generally listed out one after the other in a brief and focused manner.
As far as possible, the scope of the study as enumerated in the terms of reference should be complete and unambiguous. However, if there is any doubt regarding the scope of the study, or in the absence of a specific mention of related areas, the details are to be sorted out at the first meeting of the committee. Any good report should make sure that all the terms of reference are clearly dealt with by the committee.