The National Assembly secretariat has submitted a committee report to Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering on the plans to relocate the MPs’ office to the National Assembly building.

A committee comprising officials from the foreign ministry, the department of national properties and the National Assembly secretariat was formed in November last year to assess if the MPs could be accommodated in the National Assembly building.

The House’s secretary general Sangay Duba said the secretariat was waiting for the government’s decision. According to him, the prime minister has said that he would come up with a decision next month (March).

“We have presented the findings of the committee to Honourable Prime Minister. If MPs are to move into the National Assembly building, other offices besides the foreign ministry should also move out,” Sangay Duba said of the committee’s findings.

He said the government has allocated fund for construction of a new building for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but said that a plot is yet to be identified. The ministry in the past had cited lack of a space elsewhere for its inability to move out.

The National Assembly building houses the Prime Minister’s Office, which also needs to be relocated if all MPs are to be accommodated there. However, there are no plans in the 12th Plan to construct a new building to house the Prime Minister’s Office.

Sangay Duba said a new office space for the Prime Minister might need to be identified.

The decision to be taken has come at a time when construction of new government buildings is low on the government’s priority list. Earlier, the government said that no new constructions would be taken up during the 12th Plan unless necessary.

Accordingly, the government had said that it would see the possibility relocating the foreign ministry to the present MPs’ office, which is housed in a private building at Langjophaka, Thimphu. Asked if there will be an exchange of office space between the foreign ministry and MPs, Sangay Duba said it was early to comment as the government is yet to take a decision.

He said that MPs’ research officers must also move into the National Assembly building along with MPs.

MPs have expressed dissatisfaction over the lack of individual offices, security arrangements and a proper parking lot at their present office. Coordination of work between MPs and the secretariat is expected to be easier if MPs move into the National Assembly building.

The offices of the Prime Minister, Opposition Leader, Speaker and Deputy Speaker are housed in the National Assembly building.

The issue over the lack of proper office space for MPs had also reached a meeting of the house committee in 2017. The members’ frustration over the government’s inability to relocate the MPs’ office was one of the reasons that had triggered the dissolution of the house committee.

Lack of security for MPs while they are in office has also been one of the concerns. MPs say that although no unfortunate incidents have occurred, they could not be complacent on the safety of MPs.

In the current setup, two MPs occupy a room at the MPs’ office. MPs say that if a visitor comes to see his or her MP, one of them has to leave his room.

MB Subba