But they claim it was a compilation error
While the National Assembly (NA) Secretariat is compiling reports for the NA annual report 2016-17, which according to the secretary general Sangay Duba will be published by the end of this month or first week of September, the duration and frequency of constituency visits by members reflected in the 2015-16 report had raised many brows.
This is because some Members of Parliament (MP), according to the report, had claimed that they have been in their constituencies for more than 200 days, with one MP reporting 273 days.
According to an MP, they cannot be in the constituency for more than four months, since they have to attend the parliament session for about three months and attend committee meetings for another four months.
A senior MP, on the condition of anonymity, explained that the parliament rules of procedures (RoP) clearly state that an MP has to be in the capital a month before a parliament session. “RoP also states that an MP has to be a member of two or three committees.”
He said that given all the conditions, there is no way an MP could be in constituency for more than five months a year. “For MPs who are claiming travel and daily allowances more than that, it is a paid holiday. That is not fair.”
Another MP said that if what is reflected in the report is true, then it is a serious issue of ethics and merits thorough investigation, as it indicates that table tour is rampant among our parliamentarians.
According to a graph in the report, Samdrupjongkhar’s Jomotsangkha-Martsala MP Pelzang Wangchuk travelled the most to his constituency with 273 days, followed by Limung-Toewang MP Chimi Dorji, who is also the deputy speaker and Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi. They have been in the constituency for more than 200 days.
“The duration of visit ranged from 3 to 273 days and the frequency of visit as high as 10 times,” the report states.
The graph shows that South Thimphu MP Yeshey Zimba and Dewathang – Gomdar MP Mingbo Dukpa made the least number of visits to the constituency while Samtse’s Tashicholing MP Ritu Raj Chhetri had been to the constituency for about five days.
While Pelzang Wangchuk declined to clarify, saying the media should contact the secretariat on the issue, Dorji Wangdi claimed that what was reflected in the graph is wrong.
Dorji Wangdi said that after the report was published, MPs discussed the issue thoroughly and even raised it to the secretariat. “I have cross checked with my report and found that I spent 72 days in my constituency.”
He said that he submitted his own report to the secretariat. “It was a compilation error.”
Deputy speaker Chimi Dorji said he was not aware that the report mentioned that he had spent more than 200 days in the constituency. “We submit our tour reports to the human resource officials and I have to verify with them.”
He said that while the RoP mandates them to visit the constituency twice every year after the parliament sessions, the maximum he spends was 15 days every visit.
The leader of opposition, Pema Gyamtsho (Phd), clarified that South Thimphu MP Yeshey Zimba, lives in his constituency and need not claim travel allowances except during his visits to few far-flung places. Tashicholing MP Ritu Raj Chhetri said he could not travel much to his constituency in that financial year because of his medical condition and also because he was bogged down with office work in Thimphu, as he was the chairperson for legislative, environment and house committees. “I have also been the media spokesperson for the party and had to entertain many delegates.” He said that he was bedridden for almost three months.
Meanwhile, Sangay Duba explained that while the members are mandated to visit their constituencies at least twice a year, once in summer and in winter to keep connected with the voters, it is not necessarily for four months.
He said that MPs could spend more than 120 days in the constituency, as MPs have to be in the constituency during royal visits, Prime Minister and ministers’ visit and during Je Khenpo’s visit.
The secretary, however, said that if the MPs are blaming the secretariat and claiming it as a compilation error, it is not fair since the report was validated with the MPs. “It is not that we printed an arbitrary report. We discussed with the MPs.”
The report claims that the objective of the visit is to interact with the electorates, understand their issues, apprise them on parliamentary proceedings and resolutions and bring their concerns to the assembly.
While it is not clear whether the MPs claimed table tours or it was a compilation error, observers point out that both are not acceptable since it questions the ethics of the MPs or the report of the highest legislative body.
Meanwhile, it was learnt that the speaker also received complaints about MPs not attending international conferences they were sent for and MPs claiming to be on constituency visit but were not in the field.