Reports of National Assembly MPs doing table tours seem to have kicked up quite a rumpus in the House. The day after this newspaper picked up the issue and brought it to the notice of the electorate, the MPs were seen darting about frantically to authenticate their tour details with the accounts. Some of them, “aggrieved and saddened”, and perhaps embarrassed to see their “honourable” names dragged and trampled on the streets came out with clarification soon after. It is unfortunate that our elected representatives had to be reminded of their duties this way.
It now appears, as some MPs suggested earlier, that there were indeed some slip-ups from the Secretariat officials while compiling the report. But we also know that the details were more than once discussed and verified with each MP before putting them on the record. The MPs still had time of almost one year after the report was made public to correct the alleged errors. It is hard to understand why only now the figures look hauntingly uncomfortable to the MPs. When it was first brought to the notice of the Secretariat that some of the MPs could be table touring, the Secretariat said that it would stand by what was reflected in the report and that the MPs passing the buck to the Secretariat is unfair.
If the Secretariat has erred, as it indeed has as in the case of MP Pelzang Wangchuk and MP Dorji Wangdi, it has the moral responsibility to not just own its mistake but also to issue clarifications as to how such blunders occurred. After cross-checking with the accounts, MP Dorji Wangdi now has made claims for 78 days tour. MP Pelzang Wangchuk against whom tour day figure reflected was 273, the Secretariat has clarified that the right figure is 142 days. While the report says that all the MPs have visited their constituency, the report reflects visits made by only 35 of the 47 MPs. These lapses could have been avoided had the auditors been thorough and true to their task. This also calls for a performance audit of the legislature just as is done with the judiciary.
Our honourable MPs should know that as public figures their actions are closely watched by the people. Our honourable MPs should have known that once the documents are out in the public, the people will read them carefully. This slap on their faces now is an invitation called by the MPs themselves. Such carelessness and evident slothfulness is the least we expect from our elected representatives.
The trust and image of both the MPs and the Secretariat are at stake. Because mistakes from the Secretariat have tarnished the integrity of the MPs, it is upon the Secretariat to own its shortfalls publicly. The longer the wait, the more damaging it will be for both the Secretariat and the MPs.