The ruling party in the country exercises a monopoly on power in parliamentary activities – especially law making, budget formulation and parliamentary standing committees – according to Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB).
In its report "Parliament Watch" published Wednesday, TIB said the absolute majority of the ruling party achieved through the 11th Jatiya Sangsad elections ensured its power monopoly.
The report is based on the first five sessions of the 11th national parliament.
The main opposition party in the parliament has failed to play a strong role in establishing accountability for the government, as it was a part of the electoral alliance led by the ruling party, observed the Bangladesh chapter of the Berlin-based international civil society organisation.
Replying to a query, Dr Iftekharuzzaman, TIB's executive director, said because the main opposition party has not performed its duties properly, the parliament has remained far away from yielding proper output, even in terms of its fundamental work.
The fundamental duty of the parliament is to enact laws through arguments and counter-arguments, he said.
According to the report, an average of 32 minutes were spent to pass each bill in the parliament, which indicates that there was a lack of discussion on most of the bills.
Additionally, only 14 of the parliament members – 4% of the total – discussed bills with notice and eight proposed amendments; the rest of the members just voted "yes" or "no."
Dr Iftekharuzzaman said, "Constructive discussions did not take place in the parliament due to the absence of an effective opposition party. Consequently, the quality of the parliament, its transparency and accountability were non-existent."
Lawmakers had little interest in participating in discussions regarding legislation, found the survey. It also says the lawmakers lacked efficiency in legislative discussions.
Further, the attendance of the members of the parliament (MPs) in parliamentary sessions was not satisfactory – at 67% on average.
Consequently, there was a quorum crisis almost every working day, said the report, adding that the average quorum crisis per working day was 19 minutes in some 61 session days of the first five sessions of the 11th national parliament. In monetary value, the parliament lost Tk22.5 crore due to 19.26 hours of quorum crises in these five sessions, according to the report.
TIB in its survey also found that most of the parliamentary committees failed to hold the concerned ministries accountable effectively, even though the committees were formed in the first session.
There is no practice of parliamentary openness, said TIB, adding no initiatives have been taken to ensure public participation, especially in legislation and other parliamentary activities.
In its observation, the report also said the speaker was unable to take strong action against the MPs, against whom there were allegations with evidence. The speaker was unable to play a strong role in conducting parliamentary activities, it said.
As per the study, some 234 hours were spent in the five parliamentary sessions, while the average meeting time per working day was 3.5 hours.
Of this, the ruling party spent 68% of the time and the main opposition party 22%. Other parties spent 10% of the time and another 9% of the total time was spent for passing 16 government bills – excluding budget bills.
Regarding the question and answer session, the report said the highest percentage of the questions asked to the prime minister were inquiries about development work and projects.
A notable observation regarding this motion is that members mostly discussed the achievements and activities of the prime minister instead of asking questions.
Members showed more interest in supplementary questions instead of separate questions. Some members raised irrelevant issues instead of supplementary questions.
In some cases, the ministers concerned and questioning members were absent at the same time in the question-answer session. As a result, a significant number of questions were not raised in those motions.
TIB also put forward a set of recommendations to make the parliament more effective.
It suggested re-tabling and enacting the "MPs' Code of Conduct Bill" with necessary changes according to the best practices of other countries.
TIB further recommended providing necessary orientation for MPs to increase their effective participation in parliamentary affairs. It also sought a strong role from the speaker to prevent the use of unparliamentary language and maintain order in the sessions.
To make parliamentary standing committees more effective, TIB suggested a few changes in the work process of the committees. It also called for the regular publication of parliamentary activities.