Tashi Dema 

With reduced budget allocation, the National Assembly (NA) secretariat had to seek financial support from external donors to facilitate committee meetings, public consultation and review.

As the supreme legislative body, members of the Parliament are divided into committee members to review Bills and other businesses of the Parliament.

Article 10 (11) of the Constitution and section 293 of the National Assembly Act mandate the House to appoint the committees.

The NA’s rules of procedure (RoP) mandate an MP to be a member of two or three committees.

Sources said the NA secretariat had to seek external funding because the government had reduced its budget allocation.

“There was huge budget cut because of the Covid-19 impact on government’s budget and also the grant system, where the budget has been substantially reduced,” a source said. “The committees have to carry out their work and when there was no budget, the secretariat had to facilitate it.”

Members of Parliament (MPs) have also said that the budget allocated for the Parliament was reduced and there were implications.

An MP, who chose anonymity, said they could not carry out consultations because of the shortage of budget and when such things happen, the quality of legislation is affected.

“MPs cannot carry out oversight functions as mandated by National Assembly Act and oversight manual,” an MP said.

He also claimed it has been more than two years since travel days for MPs were reduced to 21 days after every Parliament session. “I travelled 70 days without daily allowance.”

Another MP, who also chose anonymity, said it is acute shortage of budget and not just a shortage.

She said they had to depend on external sources to conduct their regular business. “We could not conduct stakeholder consultations as much as we did before.”

According to an MP, they had to suggest potluck meals for lunch for the ongoing session. “But the secretariat managed to secure funds for lunch.”

While officials from the NA secretariat refused to answer Kuensel queries on the budget allocation and from where the funds were secured, people are questioning if the committee members or NA members should take money for Bill deliberation, which is their core mandate.

A source from the National Council said taking any money from agencies for Bill deliberation is totally against the Parliament’s mandate.

Another source said with external donors funding the committee meetings and consultations, external donors would ask for committee reports. “This will have huge impact on the legislative process as it would not have been even discussed at the Parliament.”

However, a source pointed out that if the committees are not allocated adequate funding, it is the job of the MPs to question the government and ask for it.

He reasoned that the function of the committees clearly specifies that committees could scrutinise government activities, and oversee the expenditure of public money.