Hiking the salaries of National Assembly Speaker and Supreme Court Chief Justice above the National Council Chairperson, ministers and Opposition Leader clearly violates the Parliamentary entitlement Act, finance minister Namgay Tshering said while presenting the pay revision Bill to the National Council yesterday.
He informed the council members that, as a proponent of the Bill he sought clarification before the Bill was passed. “But the National Assembly endorsed it with the support of majority,” he said.
However, he said that Council could provide its recommendation on this issue. “I can assure the House that the government will support it, but we have to go by majority in the Assembly,” he said.
Lyonpo Namgay Tshering said this in response to the deputy chair, Jigme Wangchuk’s query on which law puts the Speaker above the ministers and NC chairperson. If the rationale is to classify the heads of three branches of the government, he said the Speaker couldn’t be considered as the head of legislative branch, which is basically the Parliament. “By Constitution, Parliament is the National Assembly, National Council and His Majesty The King,” he said.
Did NA bulldoze pay revision as money Bill?
Despite the National Council seeking clarification on ambiguity on the procedure of pay revision, the National Assembly passed it as a money Bill.
During deliberation on pay revision at the Council yesterday, the Chairperson Tashi Dorji said that he along with two members of the Council appraised the Speaker on April 9 to discuss whether the pay revision should be proposed as a Bill or a report.
He said that the Speaker asked for a week to convey a response. “However, we didn’t get any response until now,” he said. The Council, he said again instituted a special committee following an internal meeting. The committee wrote to the Assembly on May 30 seeking clarification.
“We didn’t get any response so far and when it did, the Assembly and the Speaker had already passed it as a money Bill,” he said.
Bumthang’s representative Nima also said that the pay commission has proposed to deliberate pay revision as a report. Since the registrar general of the Supreme Court is also a member of the commission, he said legal opinion must have prevailed. “It is wrong to presume that one house has more authority than the other,” he said.
Haa’s representative, Ugyen Namgyel said that the finance minister, while proposing the Pay revision was inclined to endorsing it as a Bill. Few minutes after, he said the Speaker doubtfully referring to some papers declared it as a Bill.
“It was portrayed as if the government and the Assembly do not want their proposals to be objected,” he said. “If this is the case, I remain doubtful whether the Council’s recommendations would make a difference.”
However, Ugyen Namgyel said that since the Speaker has already declared it as a money Bill, the Council do not have a choice but to accept it. He added that the council did not get enough time to go through the Bill as it was sent to NC at 8:45pm day before.
The first and second Pay Commission’s recommendations were submitted to the Parliament in the form of a report, which was then endorsed by the Parliament. However, the third Pay Commission’s recommendation were submitted in the form of Pay Revision Report but was passed as a money Bill.
Hereafter, Lyonpo Namgay Tshering, said that a pay commission Bill intended to solve this ambiguity would be proposed in the fourth session. Lyonpo said he submitted two documents, pay revision recommendation and a Bill to the Assembly this session. The government, he said left it open until it was put in the Assembly.
He, however cited the public finance Act, which states that a money or financial Bill is a Bill, which contains only provisions dealing imposition, increase, reduction or abolition of any taxes and government spending that entails payment of moneys out of the Consolidated Fund. The pay and allowance is drawn from the consolidate account of the government.
The Act also states that if any question arises whether a bill is a Money Bill or not, the decision of the Speaker thereon shall be final.
“Where the National Council neither passes nor returns the Money or Financial Bill within five days of its presentation, the Bill shall be deemed to have been passed and the National Assembly shall submit the Bill to the Druk Gyalpo for Assent within fifteen days from the date of its presentation to the National Council,” the Act states.
Lyonpo Namgay Tshering said that procedures are not clear when it comes to pay revision. The pay commission, he said works based on the terms of reference drafted by the government. He added that it is also not clear as to what the commission should do. Currently, he said the commission is even looking into altering and exempting taxes when their mandate should be the pay.
The upcoming Bill, he said would address all these issues to set a clear direction.
He also assured that Council’s recommendations would be incorporated, if it is of benefit to the people and the country.
Since the financial implication of Nu 4.5B was already passed in the budget, also a money Bill, Pemagatshel’s representative Choining Dorji said, the pay revision need not be proposed as a money Bill.
The finance minister said that funds earmarked for pay revision are included in the budget under general reserve, which can be drawn only upon passing of the pay revision Bill.