Parliament Watch observed lack of expected role in promoting democratic accountability
Although attendance of MPs in the Parliament and average time spent for each session increased in the 14th to 18th session of the 10th parliament, there remain many challenges to make the Parliament more effective. Quorum crises still remains same as previous year and total amount of time spent in enactment of law remains still very low (9% of total time). Besides, the continuous trend of using unparliamentary language and violations of the Rules of Procedure by the MPs, failure of the main opposition party in playing effective role in making the government accountable, low participation of female members’ in legislative and other discussions with additional other findings presented a miserable picture containing lack of expected effectiveness of the parliament in promoting culture of democratic accountability through preventing corruption and establishing good governance in the country. These observations were stated in the current issue of TIB’s analytical research report Parliament Watch, fourth of its kind on the 10th Parliament and the 14th of the Parliament Watch (PW) series.
The report suggests to take necessary steps to retable and enact the MP’s Code of Conduct Bill with required update and stresses on stronger role of the Speaker to stop the trending use of unparliamentary language and behavior. Among other important recommendations, the report includes: call for consideration of legitimate and reasonable proposals raised by the opposition; collect public opinion on draft bills through various accepted procedures; publishing of all information related to the Parliamentary activities in the Parliament website; provide due importance to recommendations of the Committees and implement accordingly.
To reveal the report findings and recommendations, a Press Conference was organized by Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) at Dhaka office on 17 May 2018. TIB Chairperson Advocate Sultana Kamal, Executive Director Dr. Iftekharuzzaman, Adviser Executive Management Professor Dr. Sumaiya Khair, Director-Research & Policy Mohammad Rafiqul Hassan were present at the press conference. TIB Deputy Programme Managers Nihar Ranjan Roy and Morsheda Aktar with Assistant Program Manager Amit Sarker of Research & Policy division presented the summary of the report accompanied by Program Manager Juliet Rossete.
According to the report, average quorum crisis of working time of the session on each working day was found comparatively same to previous year (13% quorum crisis of total time, the monetary value is estimated around BDT 37 crores). Total amount of time spent in enactment of law remains as low as previous year (9%), the practice of not considering people’s participation and opinion of opposition members exists. Despite increased presence of the female members than male members, participation in legislative and other discussions found relatively low. Activities of committees such as cconflict of interest of some standing committee members and irregular meeting of the standing committees result violation of rules, and lack of not paying due importance by ministries/divisions in some cases towards recommendations proposed by the standing committees bar expected level of effectivity of the committees. The report also indicates that the main opposition party continue to fail in establishing accountability of the government.
Expressing concern on continuing trend of quorum crisis and increasing practice of using unparliamentary language at the parliament, Dr. Iftekharuzzaman said, “Both the government and the opposition are responsible for the failure of the parliament in promoting democratic accountability and preventing corruption for improving governance in the country. The party which claims to be the opposition party of the house itself lies in crisis regarding self-identity.” Pointing the importance of parliamentary committees in playing on people’s side to make the parliament accountable Dr. Zaman said, “deficiencies in some part of the committee’s effectiveness were observed mostly due to conflict of interest of the leading committee members with the relevant featured issues which bar the committees in addressing primary duties.”
Citing growing trend of not presenting international agreements through the honorable President in the parliament, Advocate Sultana Kamal said ``Before finalizing any agreement or treaties with other countries, it is sensible to bring it in the parliament and go ahead after open discussions and debates in the parliament for the betterment of the people and the country.”
In view of parliament’s paramount importance in promoting culture of democratic accountability for preventing corruption and establishing good governance in the country, TIB has been conducting PW study since 2001 from the beginning of the 8th Parliament. The overall objective of this research was to analyze the roles and proceedings of 14th to 18th sessions of the 10th Parliament in ensuring democracy and good governance and offer recommendations for making the parliament effective. The study used both quantitative and qualitative methods for collecting data on the parliament from both primary and secondary sources. The study also explored parliamentary openness on the basis of some international and practices that includes SDG targets regarding public access to information and IPU and PMO pleas on information dissemination by parliaments and other good practices.