The National Assembly secretariat has clarified that the data concerning members of parliaments’ constituency visits highlighted in its annual report was based on tentative travel days.
A review found that based on the ‘actual’ travel the MPs made, 18 members had cut their proposed travel short while 15 had extended their travel. Although it took much prodding from the MPs and netizens, the clarification is welcomed. It helps clear doubts among the people over MPs indulging in table tours. It stops the issue from becoming worse.
However, even as it clarifies, the secretariat stands by its report. It maintains that the source of the data it published in its report is not wrong.
This is not right.
Even if such stands are made in defense of the institution and to dispel the alleged myth of table tours, statements such as this become problematic. The source of its data may be correct, but it is still tentative. Publishing half-truth is grossly misleading and irresponsible. Against such reckless work, the effort of the secretariat to document and show the representational role of MPs is weakened.
The secretariat maintains that the intent of data was to highlight the representational role of MPs and whether this role was being fulfilled. We do not question the intent. But we cannot deny what the data could imply. If it is not suggesting table tours, it implies that the secretariat had reasons to publish records that could misinform. Or it could be be both.
The differences between the tentative and actual travel days are as telling. It runs from a day to 136 days. This either means that our MPs propose tours for months or that the secretariat does a shoddy job punching numbers. Relying on tentative data for publication in its first annual report does not bode well for an institution that is instituted to support the land’s highest decision-making body.
If it is to regain the credibility, it must own up that it has erred. It must stop hiding behind tentative data and the audit authority not issuing a memo to the secretariat. But the responsibility also falls on the MPs to point out discrepancies. Besides the representational and legislative roles, MPs also play an oversight role. Dismissing the work of the secretariat because of perceived abhorrence or personal differences with the secretariat officials is dishonourable. The secretariat exists to support and facilitate the functioning of the House and would remain long after the MPs are gone.
This is why it is admirable that the secretariat would henceforth scrutinise its data more thoroughly. We suggest that the secretariat might also want to review the foreign tour details of the MPs reflected in the annual report. Unless these tours were also ‘tentative’ the figures do not match with the records shared with the MPs. One record shows 14 MPs having not availed of any foreign tour while the annual report shows a number of these MPs were abroad for conferences and meetings.