11th parliament not effective as expected: TIB

Transparency International Bangladesh executive director Iftekharuzzaman addresses a press conference at the TIB office in Dhanmondi, Dhaka.
Ashraful Alam

The 11th parliament is not as effective as expected though it showed improvements in various aspects compared to the previous three parliaments, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) said on Sunday.

One cannot say in any way that the incumbent parliament has played an expected role, largely contributing to an overwhelming majority of the ruling party and a lack of a functioning opposition in the House, TIB executive director Iftekharuzzaman said.

Iftekharuzzaman made these remarks while replying to queries from newspersons after revealing the TIB’s Parliament Watch study at a press conference in Dhanmondi, Dhaka.

The TIB study reviewed the various parliamentary activities, including the activities of the standing committee, from the 1st to the 22nd session (January 2019-April 2023) of the eleventh national parliament.

Iftekharuzzaman said an overwhelming majority is a barrier to a functioning parliament. The walkout culture has stopped, but it came at a high price because the parliament is now without an active opposition. The party that has the identity of opposition is trying to play a more active role than before, but they were in a identity crisis. As a result, the opposition party played it role as expected, he added.

According to the TIB study, the estimated financial value of the total time spent due to quorum crisis during the 1st to 22nd sessions of the 11th parliament was over Tk 892.8 million while ruling party lawmakers spent 20 per cent of the time praising the prime minister and Awami League president during the discussion on the vote of thanks to the president's speech.

There are a total of 350 members of parliament and its quorum was filled with the presence of at least 60 members, or else parliament session does not start.

According to the TIB study, a total of 54 hours and 38 minutes were spent due to inadequate quorum, which is 6.5 per cent of the total parliamentary proceedings time. The session started late on 84 per cent of the working days from the scheduled time. In the case of resuming the session after a break, it was observed to start late on 100 per of the working days from the scheduled time.

The average cost caused by quorum crisis in the parliament per minute was Tk 272,364, and on average, 18 minutes were lost due to quorum crisis per working day. However, the 11th parliament saw less quorum crisis than the previous three parliaments. On average, 28 minutes and 32 minutes were lost due to quorum crisis per working day in the tenth and the ninth parliaments.

According to the study, a total of 124 hours and 18 minutes were spent on legislative affairs, which is almost 17 per cent of the total time spent in parliamentary proceedings. On average, it took nearly 1 hour and 10 minutes to pass a bill in the parliament. The 11th parliament also improved on legislative affairs compared to the past three parliaments. The 10th parliament spent 12 per cent of its total time on legislative affairs taking, on average, 31 minutes to pass a bill.

Approximately 27 per cent of time was spent on activities related to people’s representation and accountability and approximately 26 per cent of time was spent on the discussion of president’ speeches. Analyzing the speeches of the members of the ruling party, the study found a significant amount of time was spent praising the prime minister and various achievements of the government, consuming respectively 19.8 per cent and 19.4 per cent of the total time. Ruling party members spent approximately 18 per cent of time in criticising other parties, but spent only 0.4 per cent of time talking about irregularities and corruption.

The parliamentary standing committees are supposed to sit once a month as per the Rules of Business, but no committee maintained it.

TIB researcher Rabeya Akter and Mohammad Abdul Hannan Shakhider presented the study at the press conference.