Members of National Assembly on November 5 met in a “free and frank” session to reflect on the performance of the first year of the third Parliament.
Although the meeting lauded the Speaker’s neutrality and professionalism to a large extent, MPs remained largely aggrieved with services of the secretariat, protocol issues and the government’s inability to relocate their office.
Ruling party MPs presented verbal submissions of grievances and suggestions while the Opposition made a power-point presentation of the key achievements and challenges.
One of the long-standing issues has been the lack of an independent office where MPs have privacy with their constituents and better amenities.
A committee comprising officials from the foreign ministry, the department of national properties and the secretariat was formed in November last year to assess if the MPs could be accommodated in the National Assembly building. The committee has submitted its report to the prime minister.
Menbi-Tsenkar MP Kinga Penjor told Kuensel that MPs needed a conducive environment at their work place. “We discussed about major achievements and the way forward. One of the main issues is a proper office space for MPs.”
The National Assembly secretariat said that it was awaiting the prime minister’s decision on relocation of the MPs’ office. “The Prime Minister has asked us to wait for sometime,” Secretary General of National Assembly, Sangay Duba, said.
He also said that the secretariat had held a series of meetings with the foreign ministry on the relocation plans. The government had initially planned to relocate the MP’s office to the National Assembly, but the government has not identified a place yet to relocate the ministry.
The opposition, in its presentation, pointed out discrepancies in entitlements and welfare between MPs of the two Houses. According to the opposition, National Council (NC) members were on a “sunnier spot” in terms of entitlements and welfare.
The opposition also expressed dissatisfaction over issues relating to telephone and pocket WiFi services. It stated that parliamentary committees faced logistic problems during tours.
The secretariat’s key is job, it stated, is to facilitate MPs and stand up for the rights, entitlements and welfare of MPs.
The opposition also expressed fears of the executive undermining the role of the parliament.
Drametse-Ngatshang MP Ugyen Wangdi explained that there were discrepancies observed in TA/DA between members of the National Assembly and NC on ex-country travels.
Ugyen Wangdi said that there were restrictions on travel of Assistant Research Officers with committees. Some MPs expect the secretariat to make logistic arrangements for committee during their tours.
A NC member said they were not receiving anything more than National Assembly members.
MP Kinga Penjor said that they could focus completely on their work if the secretariat could work proactively in terms of providing rights and entitlements and other services. “But I don’t mean that there has been a failure from the secretariat’s side,” he added.
Secretary General Sangay Duba said that the secretariat had already taken action on the issues.
“We are trying our best to give the best services within the capacity of our manpower. It’s difficult to provide services beyond the available man power,” he said.
Meanwhile, members including the opposition lauded the Speaker’s neutrality and professionalism and implored him to strive even better.
MPs also stated that the relationship between the ruling party and the Opposition MPs have been good, albeit occasional unpredictable voting by ruling party MPs.
Overall, the meeting observed that the secretariat and assistant research officers have strived their best to facilitate the MPs. MPs, however, added that a lot remains to be desired from the secretariat.
Lack of adequate homework on Bills by committees and ministries have been one of the issues in the past and the same continued last year.
The last session of the National Assembly saw three Bills withdrawn or deferred due to lack of adequate homework, citing time constraints for research and stakeholder meetings.
Cabinet ministers did not attend the meeting.