The Parliament of Zimbabwe Reforms started in 1997 and included the need to reform the information services. This involved a major exercise to establish Parliamentary Constituency Information Centres (PCICs) in all the previous 120 constituencies, during the life of the Fifth Parliament from 2000 to 2005. The idea behind the establishment of PCICs was two-fold: to provide public access to parliamentary generated information and to act as a platform for public participation. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the performance of PCICs in information delivery. Reviews of relevant literature focused on the need for rights to access information, information needs, the concepts of information services and information centre, and fundamental theories and investigations about the inter-related nature of information delivery. For the empirical aspect of the study, the researcher used questionnaires for Members of Parliament (MPs), Office Assistants (OAs), and constituents; interviewed parliament staff and development partners; conducted site visits for observation; and analysed relevant documents.
Data indicated that, although the majority of the constituents were satisfied with information obtained from PCICs, information delivery is a critical concern, because of its inadequacy and lack of currency. The main parliamentary publication that is found at PCICs is the Hansard and is in print format. Information resources are not accessible in various formats, such as television, radio, newspapers, bulletins, and on the Parliament of Zimbabwe’s website. The distribution of publications to constituents is not equally balanced, because access to PCICs is affected by office location and political partisanship. There is a communication gap between the Parliament of Zimbabwe (PoZ) and PCICs in centre management, resulting in low morale among OAs. Capacity building programs for OAs are non-existent. Constituents view PCICs as development centres and not only as information dissemination and public participation centres, which is why they expect information from other government departments.
Several lessons were learned from this study. Most challenges encountered by parliament in disseminating legislative information to constituents and providing a platform for public participation are similar in nature. There is no clarity between PoZ administration and MPs over the management of PCICs. Given the necessary support, PCICs could however be a powerful tool for constituents to access parliamentary information. This calls for the adoption of an appropriate model for parliamentary information delivery. It is against this backdrop that the current PCIC performance was critically reviewed and an appropriate model proposed to take PCICs in a new direction.