MB Subba

Deviating from the past practice, the National Assembly did not include detailed information about MPs’ constituency visits in its annual report 2018-19.

The second Parliament’s report showed that some of the MPs had not fulfilled the requirement of two constituency visits in a year, while some had spent more than six months on constituency visits. The report had drawn a public backlash for lack of frequent visits or alleged table tours.

However, observers say that publication of such information by the National Assembly should be continued for transparency. The report was formally launched last week, but the secretariat has not uploaded it on its website.

The report states that each MP visited his or her constituency “at least once” with the duration varying from 12 to 196 days. One MP made six constituency visits, the highest.

As per the durations of the visit reflected in the report, one of the MPs spent about six months on his/her constituency visits during the reporting period. The report, however, does not name the MP.

MPs are entitled to a DSA on official tours, including constituency visits.

Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel said it was not necessary to publish the names of the MPs against the number of constituency visits. “The duration of visits depends on the size of the constituency,” he said.

Describing MPs as “the ears, eyes and voice of their constituents”, the report states that they articulate the thoughts and dreams of the people to the government and the government’s decisions to the people.

The Assembly’s rules of procedure mandate an MP to visit his or her constituency at least twice a year. Constituency visits are deemed important to enhance the interaction and to facilitate discussion of issues and plans between the people and their representatives.

In the past one year, about 43 percent of the NA members travelled abroad to attend conferences.

Lack of equal ex-country travel opportunities among the members had become an issue in the past. However, unlike in the past, the report does not provide information about which MP travelled how many times abroad.

According to the report, the House saw an increase in the number of questions asked and motions moved from the first session to the second session. However, it adds that the issues reaching the floor of the House decreased as many were forwarded to relevant ministries for action.

The House received 18 petitions in the first sessions and 22 in the second session from local governments. The House discussed only two petitions in each session.

One of the new features of the third Parliament has been the post-constituency visit plenary meetings, initiated to take stock of issues that members see during their constituency visit.  The first such meeting was held in April 2019 after the first constituency visit.

One of the issues repeatedly raised in the post constituency visit plenary has been related to lack of protocol for MPs. Lack of protocol has made working and coordination with dzongkhag officials and local governments difficult, according to some MPs.

The report highlights the achievements and events of the National Assembly.

During the year, all committees met at least once with the maximum meetings held by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which met 14 times in total.

The PAC held 15 public hearings and nine public consultation meeting. All nine committees held a total of 47 consultative meetings on Bills and other issues.

The environment and climate change committee met only once.