UN: To engage members of parliament and parliamentary staff on conducting public hearings, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) began a two-day workshop for the National Assembly and National Council yesterday.

The two-day programme will provide insights into forms of public consultation, constitutional articles and rules of procedure on public hearing, a case study and on how to plan public hearings strategically.

The information is also used by parliamentary committees to improve draft laws before the committees and to self-initiate legislation that addresses issues that come to light as a result of the hearings.

National Assembly Speaker, Jigme Zangpo said that public hearing, “is one of the most effective tools to bring out the fact to public views and scrutiny.”

The workshop is aimed at fostering better public consultation and thereby better legislative decision making. Public hearings are used as a mechanism for parliamentary committees to gather information on issues which can be used to analyse and design policies to conduct oversight of government policies and other matters of national interest.

Article 10.2 of the Constitution asks Parliament to conduct public review of policies and issues, bills and other legislations and scrutinize the state’s functions. Article 10.11 requires each House to establish committees to implement the mandates of the Parliament and gives each House the power to determine their rules of procedures.

While hearings may be held on specific legislative proposals, they are also used to examine broader issues in the absence of legislation.  This is particularly important in a parliamentary style of government where policy often flows from the government without being submitted to Parliament for consideration and approval.

Although both the National Assembly and the National Council rules and procedures do not specifically mention public hearing, there are elements on public hearing.

The National Council’s rules of the committees contains provisions for public hearings and also provides a general roadmap on how those hearings are to be conducted.

Article 307 of the National Assembly’s rules of procedure gives a broad grant of authority to the committees that could easily contemplate public hearings. The committees are to:  “Deliberate, inquire, investigate, review, recommend, legislate and draw attention to any important matter.”

The public hearing programme is part of UNDP’s parliamentary project to support enhancement of capacities and inclusiveness of Parliament to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to strengthen oversight and representational role of the parliament. It has reached its final stage and will be signed the next month.

“No institution is more important for deepening democratic governance and democratic dialogue than the parliament”, said UNDP Bhutan representative, Niamh Collier-Smith.

Staff reporter