Truant lawmakers undermine role of House committees

- Binod Ghimire, Kathmandu

Dec 12, 2018-

In yet another instance of lawmakers’ insincerity towards their job, a crucial parliamentary committee meeting was deferred on Tuesday as they failed to show up for the pre-scheduled event.

A joint meeting of the Finance and Agriculture, and Cooperative and Natural Resources committees of the House of Representative was called on Tuesday to discuss the sale of construction licence of the Upper Marsayandi-2 Hydropower Project by an Indian firm to a Chinese company. Though Minister for Finance Yubraj Khadiwada, among others, arrived for the meeting at 11 in the morning, it could not proceed due to  lack of quorum. It was postponed by around two hours in the hope that there would be adequate presence of the lawmakers, but to no avail which led to its deferral for an indefinite period.

The House committees, also called mini parliaments, have a crucial role to check and balance the government and their importance increases when parliamentary sessions are not running. As the federal parliament that prorogued on September 27 is yet to commence, its 16 thematic committees have a major role at present. However, the instances of House committees meeting being deferred show no sign of reduction. On December 4, Finance Committee meeting, which was called for lawmakers’ comments on the Pension Fund Bill, was adjourned thrice as the majority of lawmakers remained absent. Similarly, the Development Committee meeting called for November 20 to discuss the progress of National Reconstruction Authority failed to commence as a mere 13 from the 28-member committee were present at the scheduled time. In yet another instance, the Finance Committee meeting was deferred on same day due to the lack of presence of lawmakers in adequate numbers.

The story does not end here. Failing to meet the quorum the meeting of Public Accounts Committee adjourned on November 2.  Parliamentary Regulations make it mandatory to have 51 percent members for the formal commencement of the House committee meeting.

Former Secretary at Parliament-Secretariat Mukund Sharma sees the high absenteeism among lawmakers as a reflection of their ignorance about their roles. Further, he says, it is also the failure of parliamentary party of the respective political parties and the Parliament-Secretariat to remind the lawmakers their duty. “Playing legislative roles and putting close eye to the government’s activities is the major duty of lawmakers, but they enjoy doing other acts than their real job,” he says.

Being busy in their home towns is the major reason for lawmakers remaining absent, according to chairpersons of House committees. Sharma says as there are elected representatives at the local level, members of the federal parliament should not diminish their roles by indulging in petty issues as they did while there were no local governments for almost two decades.

“Lawmakers must stop wasting crucial time of the House committees which have important place in parliamentary practice,” says Sharma.

Published: 12-12-2018 07:00

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