The recent parliament deliberations have become some sort of a revelation. Broadcast live and at times streamed live on social media, the people have witnessed the confessions, the confusions and an occasional outburst of emotions.
We have less than a week for the session to conclude. While the pay revision has grabbed the attention of all, the sessions saw the finance minister accepting violation of the entitlement Act and the education minister apologising for not conducting research before removing the cut-off point for class ten students. The health minister’s rhetoric of having everything ready except budget to reform the health sector has lost the persuasiveness of change the government once campaigned for.
The Speaker is appreciated for moderating the house. However, his decision to pass the Penal Code amendment bill without resolving some of the provisions the committee recommended has been questioned. Those following the proceedings closely say a Bill cannot be passed by deferring some of the sections. Once tabled for deliberation, the House must either accept or reject the recommendation. We also saw that the debate sometimes focused on whether they should deliberate on the content or to even pass the recommendation. Against disagreements from the prime minister and the finance minister, the Speaker also cast the deciding vote on the recommendation to empower the economic and finance committee to review annual budget proposals of all stated-owned enterprises.
The tabling of reports on the SDGs for health and education were also more of an educative sitting for MPs to learn about SDGs than a deliberative one with resolutions. Issues from the local government, an important agenda that people from across the country looked forward to were, however, referred to the respective agencies. The addition and removal of issues from the Assembly’s agenda raises more questions than answers.
When decisions become controversial, deliberations have spilled over to social media. National Council chair had to take to social media to point out the violation of the entitlement Act when the Assembly passed the recommendation to pay the Speaker and the Chief Justice higher than others. Questions on the powers of the head of the two houses were provoked when the answers sought were on their entitlements.
There have also been calls from the National Assembly committee members to give the House more oversight powers. The purpose of informed deliberations in the House is to enhance governance and to smoothen the functioning of public service agencies. Parliament and cabinet members instead of wrangling for powers should assess how they could complement each other so that basic service delivery is not hampered.
As the highest decision making body, oversights and violations of laws and rules are not expected. The people, who elected them, have to be assured that their confidence in their representatives was not misplaced.
Questionings on the powers and mandates of institutions, the rules of procedure and the debates that ensue should deepen the parliamentary discourse and people’s understandings on issues that matter. It is only through such discussions that we will understand our responsibilities in the political process.