The Jatiya Sangsad was not as effective as expected in terms of legislation passed, representation of the people, and ensuring accountability of the government, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) yesterday said.
Most of the parliamentary committees also did not play their due roles to ensure accountability of ministries concerned.
It recommended making the national parliamentary elections participatory, fair, and neutral in the real sense to make the House more effective.
The anti-graft watchdog said this in a webinar while unveiling its study report “Parliament Watch”, which is based on the five sessions of the first year (January to December 2019) of the 11th parliament.
It observed that the absolute majority of the ruling party obtained through the questionable 11th parliamentary elections further strengthened the power monopoly of the party in parliamentary activities, especially in law-making, budget formulation, and parliamentary standing committees.
A strong role of the main opposition in ensuring accountability of the government was missing as they took part in the polls under the banner of the grand alliance and became the main opposition as a formality, it said.
“The culture of questionable and controversial elections has been established in our country. The possibility of a change of power in a peaceful and normal democratic electoral process has been ruled out. We can see its effect on the Jatiya Sangsad. Following this, an absolute majority of one party has been created in the 11th parliament,” TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman said at the programme.
He said, “The absence of an effective opposition party has been confirmed in the present parliament. The culture of boycotting parliament by the opposition was unacceptable to us. Parliament boycott culture has stopped because we do not have an effective opposition party in parliament.”
32 MINUTES TO PASS BILLS
According to the TIB, nine percent of parliament’s time during the five sessions was spent on law-making.
In 2019, the Lok Sabha of India spent 45 percent of its time on making laws.
It said 16 bills (excluding money bills) were passed in the five sessions. It took an average of 32 minutes to pass each bill, including the time minister concerned took for their statements.
The Lok Sabha took an average of 186 minutes to pass each bill.
The TIB said there was a lack of discussion on bills in most parliamentary committees. Relatively active participation of the main opposition party and other opposition members was observed in proposing amendments and scrutiny of bills.
The main opposition parties spent 67 percent, other opposition members 17 percent, and ruling party members, including ministers who introduced the bills, spent 16 percent time in the law-making process.
Of the 350 MPs, only 14 discussed bills by submitting notices. Eight of them proposed amendments to bills.
The role of the rest was limited to voting “yes” or “no”.
The TIB said the proposed amendments to the passed bill included sentence restructuring, rearrangement of clauses and subsections, and addition and subtraction of synonyms and punctuation.
TK 22CR LOST FOR QUORUM CRISIS
The money and time wasted due to quorum crisis was estimated to be Tk 22.8 crore and 19.26 hours, said the TIB. The lost hours accounted for 17.3 percent of the total time of the five sessions.
The average quorum crisis per working day was 19 minutes. There were 61 working days in the five sessions.
The Sangsad requires at least 60 MPs present.
LACK OF EFFECTIVE ROLE OF SPEAKER
Un-parliamentary behaviours and language towards some civil society members and opposition political parties in violation of the rules of procedure of parliament were observed sometimes.
The Speaker remained silent and rarely issued ruling to expunge those abusive and attacking comments.
The Speaker did not take adequate measures according to the Rules of Procedure.
In its recommendations, the TIB proposed that Article 70 should be amended for the sake of allowing members to express their voice and take position against the party line, except no-confidence motion against the government and the budget.
The membership of any standing committee member with conflict of interest should be cancelled.