PILDAT sees negligible change in NA performance | Pakistan Today

PILDAT sees negligible change in NA performance

ISLAMABAD – Upon the conclusion of the 3rd parliamentary year, PILDAT analysis reveals that there has been negligible change in the overall performance of the 13th National Assembly of Pakistan in its 3rd year and therefore the need for systemic reforms and improvement is as pressing as was a year ago.
A snapshot of performance shows that: 73% of the MNAs questions remained unanswered during the year. Average attendance of MNAs improved four percent from the previous year: 66% in 2010-2011 compared to 62% in 2009-2010, although still eight percent below the average attendance during 1st year: 74% in 2008-2009.
Met a dismal three hours per day at an average during 98 days in 3rd year; a consistent average through the 12th and the 13th Assemblies. Five more days added to budget debate from 10 days in last year though time consumed in budget session fell to 39 hours from 42 hours in 2nd year; 161 members participated in budget debate compared to 170 last year.
Laws passed to presidential ordinances issued ratio stands at 30 to 9 or 3.33 laws passed for every ordinance – significant improvement from the 2nd years of 2.1 ordinances for every law passed by the assembly. Despite declining interest of members in the House proceedings and the absence of ministers, even pointed out by the chair, it is a sign of maturity that the parties and members present in the House have upheld parliamentary practices evident from lack of rowdyism in the 3 years of the National Assembly.
However, looking at the trend in Provincial Assembly of the Punjab, it is feared that a tit-for-tat approach may be in the offing in the National Assembly which will be a poor response to the gains made during the past three years, PILDAT observed. PILDAT believes that parliament needs to institutionalise a recruitment and promotion policy of staff through the Federal Public Service Commission, as applicable to all other entities of the government, and the promotions of full-time staff should be subject to successful completion of courses at the National School of Public Policy like the Civil Service officials in Pakistan.
PILDAT also criticised the decision to construct extension of parliamentary lodges and servant quarters at the cost of Rs 4 billion, when parliament had the option to construct an office bloc for committees which was to cost less. This clearly shows parliament’s inability to prioritise the work of facilitating executive’s oversight, the key responsibility of committees, which is unfortunate. Pakistan’s parliament, unlike a majority of parliaments even in developing countries, neither provides offices or staff to individual MNAs nor it caters adequately to committees’ needs in terms of research staff and committee rooms.
Most of the committees cannot hold meetings due to the unavailability of committee rooms in the Parliament House. This lack of facilities also serves as a tool for controlling parliament as bureaucracy, often uses it as a tactic to delay or stop a committee meeting from taking place. Despite such professionally trying circumstances where MNAs do not even have access to an office, computer, or research or legislative staff, and innumerable responsibilities relating to constituencies and delivery of services to public, it is admirable that MNAs have still managed to introduce over 200 private members bills and nearly 30,000 questions in three years, including over 70 reports of the committees.
If the government and parliament truly believe in strengthening the legislative branch of the state, it is high time that prioritised investments are made through providing offices and research support to legislators and committees instead of just focusing on adding to their residential facilities, PILDAT said.
PILDAT especially praised the work of all-party Public Accounts Committee in investigating some key embezzlement and corruption scandals and observed that despite administrative, staff, research and sometimes political challenges, many committees, especially the National Assembly’s Committee on House and Library that investigated the alleged financial misappropriations in the purchase of land for the National Assembly Employees Cooperative Housing Society (NAECHS), and the National Assembly Special Committee on Railways that investigated the 2001 contract of allotment of 141 acres of Railways land to the Royal Palm Golf and Country Club allegedly on nominal prices, have managed to carry out objective and authentic investigations and prepared reports many of which have either not been presented in the House or those have not been discussed in the House, which is a sorry state of affairs.

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