19th session of the house will begin on May 11

Speaking at the pre-session press conference in Thimphu yesterday, the deputy chairperson of the National Council, Tshering Dorji, said it is important for Parliament members to interact with the media to disseminate the right information to their constituents.

The Council calls a press conference twice every session – one in the beginning of the session and another at the end. The first session was held in May 2016 and yesterday’s was the fifth.

Tshering Dorji, who is also the Council’s spokesperson, said the press conference was held in recognition of the media’s role in Bhutanese democracy. “It’s important for us to interact with media persons,” he said.

The deputy chairperson also released the agenda for the upcoming 19th session, which will begin on May 11.

The Audit Bill 2017 will be the only new bill to be introduced this time. “The bill will go to the National Assembly if the Council passes it,” he said.

The legislative committee of the house has concluded consultative meetings on the bill with various stakeholders including the Royal Audit Authority. The bill, according to him, attempts to address issues in greater detail that the existing Audit Act does not cover.

The bill seeks to repeal the Audit Act of Bhutan 2006.

The session will begin with deliberations on the follow-up reports on the resolutions of the 18th session. The house will review whether the government has implemented the Council’s recommendations on various issues such as teenage pregnancy.

Other items slated for deliberation are the annual budget 2017-18, the anti-corruption report 2016 and reports on cultural heritage, tax audit on tour operators. The house will review the audited accounts of various taxes imposed on tour operators.

The house is expected to endorse two international agreements – the Paris Agreement on environment protection and conservation and the trade, commerce and transit agreement between Bhutan and India. Both have been endorsed by the National Assembly.

“Besides, the house will also dedicate a session for issues that have come from constituency and dzongkhag tshogdus,” he said. Issues related to human-wildlife conflicts and land, he said are some of the issues that have come from the dzongkhags.

“Many constituency issues come but we scrutinise them. We don’t deliberate all just because they have come from dzongkhags,” he said.

MB Subba